Friday, April 25, 2014

Make most of your NFC equipped device.

With NFC (Near Field Communication) slowly going mainstream, there still isn't any way to use it for the purpose it was meant to be, i.e wireless payment. Most countries like USA and UK have NFC-payments, but in India, it is still in, what you may call, the beta state. But that does not stop major companies from releasing NFC enabled devices here. So what do you do with it, other than just showing-off? You show-off in style.

The key to this show-off-in-style lies in using NFC Tags. In brief, these are small coin-sized devices equipped with magnetic chips that can store a predefined amount of data, for example, 96 bytes or even upto 32 kilobytes. These are formatted to be used with NFC enabled devices, and can be programmed and re-programmed as such. These barely cost 300-400 INR for a pack of 5. You can get them on eBay here.
Most of these tags are re-programmable.

With an NFC tag, you will require an app to program it. Most of you would suggest Tasker, but Tasker is a highly customizable app with every feature editable, and is a bit over-the-top in my opinion. A normal user would be unable to do anything with it. Frankly, even I could not program a simple task such as increasing brightness. There is a simpler app, called Trigger. This one has better UI and simpler configurations, guiding the user through every step. And besides NFC, like Tasker it can use other triggers as well, like wifi, bluetooth, the 3.5mm jack, GPS, et cetera. With Trigger, you will need a plugin, called the Trigger: Tag Reuse Plugin. This enables programming the tags on a per-task basis.

Now as an NFC tag, I've used a Kolkata Metro Smart Card which I always carry. Yes, Kolkata has equipped NFC enabled payments in the Metro Railways, through prepaid smart cards or tokens. Here is what it looks like.

So install Trigger and the Tag Reuse Plugin. Start the application. Go through the tutorials and help statements. Here is what you will reach. The page will be blank, of course. 

Click on New Task in the upper right corner. Then click on the  "+" icon in upper right corner. A window like this will open. 

Click on NFC. If your device has NFC it will show there. Click on Next. Then click on "+" icon again. This page will open. 

Click on Display, then tick Brightness. Click on Next. Choose the value you want  and click Ok. This screen will open displaying your chosen value. You can rename your task. 

Then click on Next. Click on Done. Then bring your NFC tag close to the part on the back cover where there is the NFC icon. If there is no icon, look it up on Google to see where is the module located. If you successfully locate it and touch the tag on that place, you will hear a notification sound and this screen will pop-up. Since my tag is non re-programmable, your's may be different.

Finally, click on Done in the upper left corner. You will come back to the homescreen. We can see the Task we just created, i.e Task 12. 

Now bring your NFC tag again to the place where the module is located, and this dialog box will popup. 

Thus you have successfully used a tag to perform a task on your device. Go ahead, discover more features on this app, and customize it so that you may get the best out of your show-off. 

What's more, even if you don't have NFC on your device, you can still program tasks to use other features, such as wifi, GPS. You can program it to open your desired music app when you connect a headset, or to switch to a "Home" mode, with your desired functions when you reach your home (GPS). You can even program it to turn silent mode on throughout a desired time interval, or to decrease the brightness to a minimum when your battery falls below a certain percentage. There's nothing better than discovering such features yourself, so go ahead. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Nexus 7 2013 Camera Samples

The Nexus 7 2013 packs a decent 5MP autofocus shooter. And by decent, I mean that the device is able to snap above average pics. Don't expect the quality of Galaxy SIII or Nexus 5. Here are some samples. Review them yourself.

This one was taken using a 6x convex lens.

This one is at full 4x digital zoom.

Friday, April 4, 2014

5 HD games to spice up your device.

So you bought a new device, with state-of-the-art hardware. But you wanna show it off. Show it off hard. So what do you do? You install games, of course. Here are five of them to help you.

Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour:

One of the few First Person Shooter (FPS) games available on Android, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, or simply MC4 is pretty badass. Gameloft has fused excellent gameplay with excellent graphics, adding a ton of thrill to garnish it. The game automatically adjusts the graphics settings, based on your device's hardware. This means, you won't have to go through the exasperating yet essential task of optimizing it before you blow some heads off. The game has multiplayer too, where you can compete with your friends, or on online servers.
The game supports gamepads too, so all major Xbox, Logitech and some other well knows gamepads will work.
The game costs 390INR, which is more than the standard prices, but it is worth it. 

Asphalt 8: Airborne:

Gameloft redefined racing on mobile with the Asphalt series, now it has redefined the Asphalt series with Asphalt 8: Airborne. Asphalt 8, or A8 as we might say, features a lot of improvements over it's predecessor, Asphalt 7: Heat. For instance, Asphalt 8 has more awesome cars, better graphics, better tracks and more stunts. THe game has four graphics presets, viz. very low, low, medium, high. The high option is the highest, and has tyre smoke and sun reflection and a lot of other things. The game offers multiplayer, where you can race against your friends or on online servers.
Asphalt 8 also supports Xbox and Logitech gamepads.
The game was launched with a price tag of 55 INR, but was eventually made a Free to Play game.

GT Racing 2:

Another great racing game from Gameloft, GT Racing 2 is more a casual racing game, instead of the graphically intensive Asphalt 8. GT Racing 2 is based on, as Gameloft calls it, "real car experience". This means no hi-fi stunts, no super cars et cetera. The game allows you to optimize the graphics for balanced performance and looks. With multiplayer, you can challenge your friends, or play on an online server.
This game also supports all major gamepads.
The game is free on Google Play, which makes it one of the must-haves on your device.

Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy:

Probably you've never heard of Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, or the company that made it. It's NAMCO BANDAI Games. Yes, and it's one of the best air combat games out there. Probably the best. The game has excellent visual effects, and the gameplay is simple awesome. There are a ton of fighter planes to choose from, and an extensive single player campaign to complete. The game optimizes the graphics automatically, which is good. It also offers multiplayer, where you can shoot down your friends, or complete strangers on an online server.
The game supports all major gamepads.
The game is free on Google Play, but the full version costs around 190 INR. It is a great game, and you should have it.

Riptide GP2:

A casual game as usual from Vector Unit, Riptide GP2 hasn't got the aura of Asphalt 8 or GT Racing 2, but it's an excellent game for passing a few minutes here and there. The game features some cool hydro jets and tracks, where you can perform cool stunts. There are graphics options to optimize the game, and it also offers multiplayer, to drench your friends or strangers on an online server. 
The game supports all major gamepads.
The game costs around 120 INR on Google Play. It is a must have, as not always you can play Asphalt 8 or Modern Combat 4 in your spare time.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Google Nexus 7

Perhaps the most sought after Android devices are the ones, which belong to the Nexus category. Owning a Nexus might be called the second best thing, after owning a Lightsaber. So here I am, reviewing the Nexus 7 2013 for you.
The new Nexus 7 is a great improvement over the previous one, the Nexus 7 2012. The Nexus 7 2012 came is two versions, the 16GB one, and the 32GB one. Google has opted to keep the memory sizes same, so the new Nexus also comes in 16GB and 32GB versions. This is where lies the major flaw. Google should have provided a 64GB one, considering no Nexus ever has a card slot.

                The Nexus 7 2013, or let's call it just Nexus 7, has a Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8064 chipset, also dubbed as the S4 Pro, or the Snapdragon 600. It boasts of a quad core Krait 300 CPU, clocked at 1.5GHz. Now this is actually a great improvement over the previous quad A9 Tegra 3, present in the 2012 version of the Nexus 7. The Tegra 3, which may have been a flagship in it's time, does have some nice features to boast of, like extra special effects in games, but the Snapdragon 600 out-performs it by a wide margin. The new Nexus 7 also has a quad core Adreno 320 GPU, clocked at 400MHz. Being modest here, the Adreno 320 is a nice GPU, which is just 2 steps short of the Adreno flagship, the Adreno 420, present in the Snapdragon 805.
The Nexus 7 also contains 2GB LP-DDR3 RAM, which is 1GB more than it's predecessor. This means, multitasking will be a breeze, and gaming will be a pleasure, with even the most GPU intensive titles, such as Modern Combat 4 and N.O.V.A 3. There are a load of sensors present, which is usual for most Nexus devices. There is an accelerometer, a proximity sensor, a light sensor, a magnetometer, a gyroscope (which, of course, means you can use the Photosphere). The Nexus 7 comes with a 3950mAh battery, which translates to around 18 hours of normal usage. Which means, you do have to plug in the device at the end of the day.

Performance in Games:
                      One of the best features about Nexus 7 is gaming. Gaming on a 7 incher is ever-pleasing and entertaining. The Nexus 7 does manage quite heavy games with ease. It can play Modern Combat 4 (optimized by default) at around 30-35 fps, the lowest being 23fps, and the highest being 48fps. It can also play Asphalt 8 at high settings (highest available) at 35-45 fps, the lowest being 28fps and the highest being 54fps. GTA Vice City ran at 35fps average, the lowest being 24fps, and highest being 49fps, at optimized settings. Other games like Dead Trigger 2, Real Racing 3, GT Racing 2, Riptide GP2 ran flawlessly at highest settings.

           The Nexus 7 has an IPS LCD, with a resolution of 1920x1200 pixels, and has a staggering ppi of 323. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, which is scratch proof and shatter proof. The screen is actually a great improvement over it's predecessor, which has a resolution of 1280x800, and a ppi of only 216. The Nexus 7 2013's screen has great viewing angles, and good color reproduction. It's quite a pleasure to watch movies, or read text or browse through your favorite stuff on Flipboard.The light sensor enables you to use auto brightness. Auto brightness is recommended, because it's not entirely feasible to change the brightness manually in each environment, and it can also save your eyes from searing in the night.

Connectivity options:
                      The Nexus 7 comes in WiFi only options. However, there is a 3G version called the Nexus 7C, which costs 5000 bucks more. The Nexus 7 has Bluetooth v4.0, Wifi, NFC, Wifi Direct and Miracast Wireless display. It also comes with Qi Wireless Charging certification, so you can use it with any wireless charger. There is a micro USB port in the bottom, and a 3.5mm jack on the top. 

              This is where the 2013 version scores over the 2012 one big time. The 2012 had only a 1.2MP shooter on the front, capable of 720p video. The 2013 version has a 2.1MP shooter, and a 5MP autofocus primary camera at the back, both capable of 1080p video. The primary camera is pretty decent for casual shots, but then, who holds up a 7 incher to take pics? The camera lacks HDR, and the UI is the stock Android one, allowing little customizations. But there are thousands of apps out there, that may help click better pictures.

               The Nexus 7 2013 comes with Android 4.3 out of the box, upgradable to Android 4.4.2. The UI is stock Android.

         The Nexus 7 2012 had a dotted back that allowed for grip, but looked awkward and repulsive. The 2013 version has a matte faux-rubberized finish, with the word "nexus" emblazoned horizontally, which implies that the tablet is best in the landscape mode. The back has a nice feel, and the rubberized finish allows for better grip, so bid a goodbye to falling tablets. The stereo speakers are present at the top and bottom, allowing for a nice feel of surround sound. The audio quality is nice, but the speakers could be a little higher in audio levels. The whole body is around 2mm slimmer than the predecessor, and 50g lighter. The 50g actually makes a big difference, with the slimmer body amplifying the placebo. 

                     The Nexus 7 scores around 21000 in Antutu, 21048 to be precise, 59.7 fps in NenaMark 2, and 9124 in Quadrant. It also manages 8921 in GFXBench, in 1080p T-Rex Offscreen, and 253MFlops in Linpack Multi Thread.

            Google has nailed it yet again. The Nexus 7 2013 is a killer deal for this price, considering no Nexus, except this and the outdated 2012 version, is available for less than 20000. I would say, grab it while it's still there. 

Where to get it from:
               Flipkart:       16GB:          Grab it!
               Flipkart:       32GB:          Grab it!
               Amazon:      16GB:          Grab it!
               Amazon:      32GB:          Grab it!

Monday, March 10, 2014

No time to read the novel? Spritz up.

You recently bought your favorite novel, but damn these work hours and tiredness, you can't even read a word. To top that, your novel is a 500 page thriller that you know you simply can't put down. What do you do? Get an e-book and read in whatever spare time you have? No.
Thanks to developers at Spritz, you can now read an 85000 word novel in around seventy nine minutes. No, I am not joking around.

Spritz believes that there exists an "optimal recognition point" within each word, that allows us to identify it. It also believes that most of the time is spent in searching for the next optimal recognition point, or ORP as we may call it, on the page. They designed the text to align the ORP directly with the eye, which is featured in red. The user has to just read the word that pops up.

The popping speed is user-definable. They have released some images to illustrate this phenomena.
 250 words-per-minute
350 words-per-minute
500 words-per-minute

After three years of development, Spritz is now in beta in the Android platform. They plan to expand to iOS shortly afterwards. There isn't any ETA. But we all are waiting hard to download this and finish an average sized novel in under an hour.