Control auto-starting applications on your Android device (or Android media center)

The MK802 is just one example of Android “hopping over” to more different kinds of devices then the phones and tablets it was designed for. In essence the MK802 is a little computer that comes with a couple of USB ports and an HDMI port so you can hook it up to any TV/Monitor and instantly turn that machine into a ‘smartscreen’. With devices like the MK802, you can easily turn your television into a media center using applications like PLEX or Boxee who let your Android ‘stick’ become your media front end.

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The only thing that is missing is that those applications should ‘start up’ automatically whenever your android device of choice boots. In order to make that work we found the free app called “Startup Manager” (how DO they come up with these original names). 

You can either tweak your Android device by removing applications that run on startup (nice way to clean out some branded cruft) OR add some auto starting applications of your own. (perfect for launching VLC, Boxee or Plex at bootup). 

Startup manager is free, does not require root and is available in the Android Marketplace.

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Reviewing the Huawei Ascend Mate.

I remember a scene in the movie “Zoolander” where the main character played by Ben Stiller, a vain spoiled male model, gets a call on his cellphone. He answers the call and starts talking into this insanely little phone that he holds to his ear, a nearly invisible device pinched between his thumb and index finger. The scene is funny because it deals with the popular trend in the phone industry of the late 90’s to make devices smaller and smaller.

zoolander_cell_phone

The device I’m reviewing today is clearly not an offspring of that trend. The Huawei Ascend Mate is probably one of the largest cellphones on the market today. At a whopping 6.1 inch, it is even larger than the already bulky Galaxy Note 2 that is currently my ‘communication device’ of choice. Before we dive into the distinctions between a “phone” and a “communicator” … lets just take a closer look at the Ascend Mate.

huawei-ascend-mate-05

The Specs

The screen of the Ascend Mate covers almost the entire surface of the 6.1 inch phone device. With a resolution of 1280 by 720 (at 241 pixels per inch) it is amazingly bright and has a realistic colour spectrum. What I found appealing is its visibility in bright sunlight. Unlike the note 2 (Whose screen is also quite bright but is terrible to use in bright sunlight) the Mate manages to give you a “good look” at whatever is on your screen, no matter if the twin suns of Tantooine are setting right behind your back. But the one thing that does stand out is the fact that the colours are very “natural” and that is surely a bonus.

The Mate comes with a front and rear facing camera with a respective resolution of 8 and 1 Megapixel. Both camera’s deliver good pictures (we tested them both outside and inside) and the flash LED’s are bright enough signal the Rusky’s on the international space station.

Battery life on the Mate is quite good considered the sheer size of the screen. The downside is that the battery is not replaceable (You can’t even remove the back cover of the Mate, Sim and memory slots are on the side). We managed a day of extensive use and still had a couple of jolts left at sunset.

The Ascend Mate comes with an adapted version of Android 4.1 (not 4.2) where Huawei decided to pre-populate your phone with most of the apps you need. All the apps are nicely organised in folders (For example : There is a GOOGLE folder with most of not ALL google apps in the Market place) and this is surely a bonus. Every phone manufacturer needs to give their software experience an added value. Some build skins, but Huawei decided to be your personal shopper in the Marketplace and pre-load your phone with all the “standard” apps that you might need. I like this, because then you are no longer dependant on the manufacturer to upload their ‘in-house’ apps, you just depend on the core developers. The interface of the Mate is sliiiiightly different to “stock” Android, but this is hardly noticeable. This lean and mean approach gives the Mate the speedy swifty feel it needs and surely adds to the pleasure of its user. The culprit to blame here would be its 1.5 Gigaherz processor and its 2 gigs of ram.

This is no phone for Tinkerbell

Like the previous Huawei phone we tested, the Mate feels like a well finished product.. One downside we have are the plastic ‘latches’ that cover the phone’s sim and SD card slots : They might break off in the long run. When we first took the phone in our hands we expected it to be bulky and hard to handle. Guess what : Its NOT . The Mate’s size is well proportioned and its internal weight distribution is well balanced. Using the phone in both portrait and landscape mode is a breeze. We compared it to using the Galaxy Note 2 and the latter does not win that Phablet prizefight. Although larger, the Mate is surprisingly more easy to hold and handle then the slightly smaller Note2. However, single handed operation is not an option and two hands are required to type and hold the phone at the same time. So this brings us to the question : Is this a phone at all ?

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The Huawei Mate is the Nokia Communicator of the modern Phablets.

We hate the word “Phablets”. It hints toward a mutational subset of mutant devices that are too small to be a tablet and to large to be a phone. At 6.1 inch across the Note2 is surely a “Phablet”. Slightly to large for a phone, slightly to small for a tablet. With the addition of just a measly 0.6 inch (compared to the Note 2) the Huawei Mate slides into the Sub-Tablet category and does it brilliantly. Well balanced in weight distribution, having a crisp screen, a nice interface and decent battery life the Huawei Mate is the perfect companion for those who want both a phone and a tablet but do not have the cash to buy both. Yes : It looks dorky when you get a phone call …  but so what ? How many phone calls to the younger generation still make every day ? Its all Texting, Twitter, Facebook and the likes these days. A real time ‘audio only’ conversation is something that is becoming scarce for Teens anyway.

So Geeks : Should you get one ?

Well : If you want to live on the socially-acceptable cutting edge and carry around a ‘communicator’ instead of a phone : Get one ! At around 300 euros the price is way below the ‘premium priced’ products of both Apple and Samsung and it still gets you a very cool device. The one thing you need to ‘click’ in your brain is the concept of ‘ a phone ‘. Just like the Nokia Communicator, the Mate is a “communications device” that enables you to connect to to your digital lifestyle and not to an Party Chat conference call from the 80’s. Forget concepts like “sliding it into your back pocket” or “making a quick phone call”  The Mate is the lovechild between your Smartphone and your iPad making both pretty much obsolete once you have the Mate. Its not light, It does not fit in your back pocket, it does not have a 6 day battery life .. but neither does your tablet. This is not a phone, its an advanced digital communication device that provides you with connectivity, content, computational power and entertainment… and you can also use it to call your nan.

Links : Find out more about the Mate at Huawei’s official page

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kw605 : The Samsung 2013 Premiere event in London.

We grab our camera kit once more and hop over to London to cover Samsungs 2013 premiere event where their new product line of Phones, Tablets, Laptops, Desktops and other devices is presented to the public. We take a close look at the new Galaxy phones, the new NX Camera, and Samsungs first Windows-Android dualbooting sideloading Slabtop : The Ativ Q. 

Shownotes.

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Google’s Nexus 7 or the iPad mini ? What will be under your tree ?

In a household where both the iPad mini and a Google Nexus snuggle up alongside each other at the charging station, we regularly get the question : “What is the best one to buy”. The question is the same as asking Darth Vader which of his children was his favorite ? The one with the worst hairdresser in the universe, or the one that chopped off his hand. You can’t choose between your children. Personally I’m also struggling with that very question ? Which is the better tablet. The anser is ” It all depends on a certain point of view” (Thank you Obi-one Kenobi, you’ve been no help at all !) So we have a nice review online we found from Pocketnowvideo who do the hard work of putting both tablets side by side … and letting you decide.

 

So whats YOUR opinion ? Which is the better tablet  ?  What should you buy ? What have YOU chosen to be your 7 inch companion .. and why ? Share it with us in the Comments Section.

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kw405 : Nas4free as your cross-platform network filehub.

We get technical this week with a great open source and free network attached filestorage solution called NAS4FREE. After running down the list of things it can do we show you how to tweak into the core of your cross-platform filesharing world, enabling you to use it as a central filehub for all of your devices and from all of your locations. We top it off with some information on how to virtualise the whole solution and give you a spot of music from Planet Boelex’s new track ‘Refurbished’ all of that and more on Kw405.

Shownotes.

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Turn a broken smartphone into a home server with Servers Ultimate.

The most horrible sound that you can imagine is the sound of a smartphone clattering on the floor or the sickening crunch of a breaking tablet display. With many of our favorite devices made out of glass ( I still feel like the Monolith in 2001 a Space Odyssey was actually Apple’s first iPad add) the chance of some of those glass display’s shattering .. is real.  But what then ? What when hairline cracks criss cross your screen, (but the touch-part still works) ? What happens when your smart device becomes broken or obsolete. Should you throw away that old or broken phone or tablet ? If its and Android : Don’t ! There is still life in it !

Enter Servers Ultimate.

Servers Ultimate turns your Android device into a home server. It offers you the ability to run “services” on a smartphone or tablet, that are usually reserved for a VM or a beige box. But think about it ! : Your old phone is light, small, powerful, always connected AND has a built in UPS (uninterruptible power supply) called “A Battery”. Why not hook it up to its charger, plop it down somewhere in a corner and start “Serving”.

Servers Ultimate lets you run the following Services on your Android Device

  • https (webserver)
  • dlna (mediastreamer)
  • dyndns
  • irc (chat)
  • socks (proxy)
  • Webdav (web storage)
  • Scp (secure file transfer)
  • SSH 
  • ……

The free version of the app lets you run 2 services at the same time, the payed version lets you check all the boxes and turn that old DroidX into a small home server. Storage capacity depends on what you hook up to it ( Internal SD card of your phone or some external storage) Power depends on the processor in your smartphone. But all in all  : its a great way to setup a server in your house and re-use an old device.

I’m personally using Servers Ultimate to mess around with my MK802.22 stick to turn that into a home server with the Carbon Footprint of a small fly (its very low power) and hook it up the the wild wild web.  Servers Ultimate is Free , but the Pro version will cost you a measly 4.99 in the Google Play Store.

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Kc308 : "Reviewing the Nexus 7"

We take a look at one of the hottest devices currently on the market and stare down the bellybutton of the Google Nexus 7. After looking at hardware software and specs its time to answer the important questions : How can this technology work for us AND what will it do to the market. A different approach at a product review this time that will surely enlighten you in some way or form. Spice it up with some great feedback from the voicemail and twitterspheres and we have another Knightwise.com podcast .. in the can.

Shownotes

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IOS : Turn your tablet into a learning machine.

Our Tablets (wether that be iPads or Android Tablets) are probably the most coveted piece of technology you can find on our ground floor. Having chased our desktop computers upstairs to our Office and herding our laptops in the closet to wait for more productive tasks, they rule supreme. Aside from the average tasks of playing Angry Birds, checking email and waisting time on Facebook, our iPads do offer us another source of content that TV lacks these days. The ability to learn. If you are ever bored or craving new knowledge : here are three killer applications you can not mis out on on your iPad.

Ted Talks : Probably the best know ‘talks’ app on the iPad , Ted Talks gives you access to the thousands of speeches and talks that have been given on the Ted conferences throughout the world. You can search by keyword, browse the latest talks, check out the different categories, but you can also use the “entertain me” option. Just select the type of talks you want to explore, enter how much time you have, and the TED app will make a great selection for you to enjoy. Download the talks you like for offline viewing or share them online ,making you look far more sophisticated then you are to your social circles. Try the TED TALKS APP.

Kahn Academy : Having heard about the Kahn Academy from the founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales himself, I checked out the website to find thousands of cool instructional video’s on a variety of educational topics. Nice ! especially if you are in the educational sector you can find a plethora of content with a far higher degree of quality and accuracy then Youtube ever has to offer. Try the KAHN ACADEMY APP.

ItunesU : For thousands of years TV shows have taught us that you need to be a jock to get a scholarship and get into some fancy college or university. Well that no longer is true. With the ItunesU app you can now not only download lectures and talks from the best universities in the world , you can also download complete interactive courses to take on for free. An amazing treasure-trove of information awaits ( Personally I listened to a few amazing lectures on astronomy and was blown away to see that , not only did it keep up, i was also able to learn something) Turn your local Starbucks into an MIT auditorium with your iPad and iTunes U.

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