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

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

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


Good old phone tech with carrier fallout…

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

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

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

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

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

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



No need to root, just load a ROM…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research Links:

…and in the end. Final Review…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Voice Tips With an Expiration Date

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom Pop Messaging App Update

Not a lot to write about here, but if you are using the Freedom Pop Messaging app, open up the Play Store and get the update. From what I can tell, you now get a warning when your 4G service’s signal is not up to snuff. It is good to be warned. But generally, I have come to learn that a cell phone that is not available when you need it is not terribly useful. Searching around for a hot 4G signal or free WiFi to make a call is not at all convenient.

I am going to keep this phone around a little longer, but the experience has been poor. Sorry. Underpowered, buggy phone/software with a spotty 4G network in my area has made this phone untenable.

But, I still have to hand it to Freedom Pop for being radical.

The hidden radio inside the phone

As stated before, there is an FM radio inside my HTC EVO Design that, for some reason, FreedomPop decided not to to include any software pre-installed on the phone to utilize this feature. Now this may sound like a great idea, and I admit my reaction to the “discovery” was “that is really cool!” In practice, it is impractical, and in the many the scenarios I am in need of an FM radio (in the car) I have an FM radio.

Well, even though I did not need it, the program I landed on to give the FM radio a go was called Spirit Free (make sure you READ THE FULL THREAD if you decide to use it.) The free version of Spirit is no longer available in the Google Play Store. The full version allows you to save, record and and listen to stations in stereo – only mono is available in the free versions. HTC has a radio program, HtcFMRadio.apk, that you can google around for but I was never able to get it to install and work properly from any site.

It is probably a “feature” of the HTC Evo Design, but every time I would use Spirit Free, I would need to reboot my phone because all alerts and alarms would no loner work – don’t know why, and really, as I said, this is not a killer feature for me.

Give it a go. Your mileage may vary.

Dead again.

For no apparent reason, the HTC EVO Design died in the middle of the night. This is not a workable phone if I can’t put it down with 50% battery life and have it die on me in the middle of the evening. I am finding this phone less and less charming as time goes on – if it were not for FreedomPop’s service being free, I would never have purchased this phone.

If I may, this phone seems to have been doomed from the moment it came into production. There are times my battery is at 100% AND plugged in and EVEN THEN the battery runs down. I am not saying it is not possible, but for the phone to demand so much energy in such a bursty way that it can’t keep a charge even if plugged-in seems like a design flaw.

And then there is the discovery of the FM Radio chip (Androids own page says it is no FM radio). Huh? I am not the first to know about this, but, there is a hidden FM Radio in my phone, that if I use, I have to reboot the phone for the phone to work right again. More to come on this later…

But for now, ick.