Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kit Kat Finally Comes To Verizon And The Samsung Galaxy S4

The KitKat 4.4.2 Android update has been making its way around various versions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 for weeks now. As a Verizon customer, I'm used to having to wait at the back of the line for an important OS update, but the wait for KitKat has been particularly long. My phone finally received it this afternoon.

New Features In KitKat


  • Better Memory Management - Google has made some improvements under the hood that results in better memory management and smoother mulit-tasking.
  • Improved Google Now - You can now activate Google Now by simply saying "OK Google". The contextual cards feature have also been upgraded. Google Now cards will try to predict information you need based on your location, favorite sites or TV programs.
  • Hangouts Upgrade - Google Hangouts now supports SMS and MMS and promises better video and voice calling along with location based sharing and animated gif support. 
  • Better Caller ID - The phone app itself appears to have been redesigned as it now has a Google Now integrated search bar. Google Maps will also be used to search for names behind numbers that have not been identified in your contacts. 

As usual, this update from Verizon comes with a significant amount of bloatware including:

  • Verizon Cloud - With Verizon's "More Everything" plan, you get 25GB of cloud storage. Use this app to access it. Or, do what I do, and disable it.
  • Isis Wallet - It's an app where you put in your credit card numbers and loyalty card numbers so that you can pay via the app at any physical location that takes contactless payments. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Overflowing My Data Cap

I got my replacement phone in the mail last week and quickly went about re-installing all of my old apps. I also made sure to pluck my old SD card out of the old phone and put it into the new one. I had still been using the damaged phone to take pictures and videos, especially of cast rehearsals, even though my Google Photos backup could not connect to the network. It was when I re-installed Google Photos that I made a huge mistake.

Google Photos Auto Backup will automatically backup all photos and videos you take by uploading them to your allocated cloud space. It gives you the option of always using your cell network or waiting for a Wi-Fi connection instead. In my haste to get everything done, I selected the option to always use the cell network. Several hours later, while I was sleeping and while my phone was uploading the pictures and video I had taken during my offline time, Verizon notified me via txt message that I had exceeded my data cap. Not only that, but I was informed that I was going to be automatically billed $15 for another gig of data. Four hours later, just before I woke up, I got another txt informing me that I had exceeded the 1gig extra cap and that I'd be charged $15 for yet another gig of data.

My exceeding the cap is totally my fault for not completely reading the notifications on Google Photos, but, wouldn't you think that any additional data expense should be authorized by me before Verizon adds it? I'm sure there's language in the contract that allows Verizon to add a data charge to my bill without my authorization, but, still, it's a pretty shitty thing to do.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S4 Stuck In Airplane Mode

During rehearsals last night, I put my Samsung Galaxy S4 into airplane mode. Upon leaving, I tried to resume service only to find that my phone was stuck in airplane mode. The option to turn airplane mode off was greyed out, and when I pressed it, the phone didn't do anything. I rebooted the phone to no avail. I then tried turning on various networks manually and that seemed to push the Galaxy S4 out of airplane mode, yet I still could not connect to any Verizon services. Instead of the happy-friendly 4G LTE indicator icon, I had the dreaded circle swoosh in the upper right hand corner of the phone. Going to Settings->More Networks->Mobile Networks would hang the phone. Even pulling up the dial pad would hang the phone.

There are a number of posts on the Internet referencing a similar problem with the T-Mobile network and the Wi-Fi calling feature. T-Mobile users are able to force their phones out of airplane mode by re-pointing the phone network preferences via the Wi-Fi calling menu.. Unfortunately, Verizon doesn't offer Wi-Fi calling, so that fix wasn't even an option for me. I bit the bullet and did a hard reset of the phone, but when I got to the activation screen, the phone wouldn't connect to the Verizon network and the activation failed.

The folks at Verizon tech support are unaware of any issues related to what happened to me, but, I think my experience coupled with the T-Mobile issues are indicative of a greater problem. It seems to me that there's a bug with the antenna software in Android 4.3.  Thankfully, my Samsung Galaxy S4 is still under warranty, so I'll have a replacement in a few days and I won't have to bother with the issue any further. However, if that weren't the case, I still have a few things that I would try in order to get the phone working properly:


  1. Replace the SIM card (I'm almost positive that the issue resides here)
  2. Root the phone
  3. Upgrade to Android 4.4

So, if your phone is stuck in airplane mode and you're not a T-Mobile customer and you can't get a warranty replacement, try one of the above three options. And let me know if it works. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Oven Has Arrived

After weeks of waiting, my oven finally arrived on Monday. It took a while to install due to an issue that popped up during the install of my cabinets. The gas line comes up from the floor, banks to the side with an elbow joint and runs through two sets of cabinets via an 18 inch galvanized steel pipe. The installers messed up the 18inch pipe somehow, which meant that I had to replace it with a 6 foot flexible gas hose. All it took was a little wrangling with a manual wrench and the application of some teflon tape.

I haven't had a fully functioning oven in about 3 years. Back in 2011, the stove went out, leaving only the burners functional. I got used to preparing foods via the microwave and being creative with the Pizazz Plus Pizza Oven. After I took out the old oven last month to make way for the new one, I had to start adapting to life without burners. Just boiling water became a challenge. Getting a hot plate helped immensely.

Now, though, it's not anything I need to worry about. I've already tried my hand at making oversized muffins and Cheddar Bay Biscuits. And now I've got my eye on making some Cafe Du Monde beignets.   

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Is Here

If you've gotten your hopes up that the new Windows 8.1 Update 1 will include the re-introduction of the traditional Start button, you're going to be disappointed. That feature was only just recently announced at the last Microsoft BUILD conference. It's on the Windows road map, but you probably won't see it until Windows 8.1 Update 2. That being said, there are a few notable new features in Windows 8.1 Update 1.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Changes:


  • Apps purchased from the Windows App store can be pinned to the taskbar
  • Cursor gestures now have a small delay before triggering
  • Power and Search buttons have been added to the Start screen
  • Right-clicking a Live tile spawns an actual right-click menu rather than showing charms
  • Windows Apps can be closed and minimized with the mouse
  • You can now boot directly to the desktop

 I'm not a huge fan of the Metro/Desktop hybrid that Microsoft seems to be pushing with Windows 8, but I will say that Windows 8.1 Update 1 includes enough small changes that I no longer hate the interface. I'm only slightly annoyed now.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Comic Con Saint Louis

The gang and I were in the lovely city of Saint Louis this weekend to spend a Saturday at Wizard World Saint Louis Comic Con. I had never been to a comic book convention before, so I was pretty excited at the prospect of mingling with some celebrities, browsing the wares available at various vendor tables and generally having a good time. I walked away with some art-work and some t-shirts, and, although I was pretty pleased with what I had gotten, I ultimately felt like the entire show was a bit of a let down.

The overall buzz lacked a certain aura of excitement, which is something that I am used to sensing whenever I attend Gen Con. I think the lack of awe and wonder was most evident in the general lack of cosplayers. Certainly, there were a fair amount of people who dressed up, but I noticed a real dearth of hardcore cosplayers. The high price of celebrity autographs and photo-ops was also a huge turn off for me. Clearly, celebrities should be able to make some money off of their image and their signature, but when William Shatner charges upwards of 90 bucks for you to have your picture taken with him, something is taken away from that aura of celebrity. For me, anyway, that celebrity becomes more like a one-person corporation than a celebrity. I felt particularly bad for Ralph Macchio who was charging about $30 for a photo op and had few takers whenever I passed by.  I guess it's a lesson in supply and demand and charging what the market will bear, but there has to be a better way for everyone involved.

I got a lot of enjoyment out of visiting with a number of artists and purchasing a few prints. Jim Ferguson became a particular favorite for his interesting and evocative "Making A Scene" art work. I bought a few 80's prints from him and regret not having purchased more.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

David Hasslehoff Photobombs In Auto Awesome

As part of their April Fool's celebration yesterday, the Google Photos app began adding David Hasselhoff photobombs to certain Auto-Awesome photos. Basically, take a portrait and leave a little space, and The Hoff might just show up in your picture. I was unaware of the joke, so, when I got a notification that I had a  new Auto Awesome photo, I looked and was met with this:

  

I don't know if the David Hasslehoff photobombs are a permanent Auto Awesome feature or not. I hope they are. This is pretty cool. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Oven Has Been Delayed

I had finally settled on a new oven. It had all of the features I wanted, including 5 burners, a griddle attachment and a stainless steel finish. I ordered it from Home Depot and scheduled delivery for a week later. The brick and mortar Home Depot stores don't keep appliances in stock, so, scheduling a delivery was my only option. Just a few days before my anticipated delivery date, the service called and said that there would be a two week delay due to back-order. Furious at having to deal with microwave cooking and Pizazz pizza cooking for far longer than I had anticipated, I called Home Depot.

It's inconceivable to me that I can purchase an appliance on-line and then be told a week later that the appliance is out of stock. If  I am able to put that appliance in my virtual cart, wouldn't that indicate that the appliance is in stock? According to Home Depot: No. For many appliances, Home Depot  often pools orders and sends them off to the manufacturer. Then, it's up to the manufacturer to fulfill them. Home Depot's reported inventory is only an approximate number.

On the plus side, Home Depot customer service is always friendly and helpful and they gave me a gift card worth more than 10% of my purchase price. I used it to buy an induction burner so that I can cook some semblance of normal food while I wait for the oven to arrive. The nice customer service lady even expedited the shipping so that I'd have it in two days.