Sunday, February 21, 2016

Synchronizing Moon+ Books on Android

I do a lot of reading on my Android devices, phones and tablets. After a long search I selected Moon+ Reader, the Pro version. The killer feature was the way bookmarks and underlining is handled. I mostly read non-fiction and like to mark important passages. And I want to be sure my marks are available forever. After I am done with a book, I create an Evernote clip from my marks and comments. With Moon+ this is done with a single click.

I did most of my reading on my Nexus 7 tablet, but when my phone was getting bigger I realized it would be nice to do some reading there as well. And it would be even nicer if I could synchronize the books, notes etc.

Moon+ provides some functionality in this respect but not all of it. So this is what seems to work:

  1. Create a backup of the Moon+ main folder. Just in case. Many android file manages let you create a .zip file from a folder. Do it.  
  2. Get a Dropbox account and set it up.
  3. On the device (old device) where you already have Moon+, open Moon+, go to Settings, check "link to Dropbox" and do a backup.
  4. Get Dropsync App and install it on all devices. The free version will be just fine since you will be syncing only one folder.
  5. On the old device set up Dropsync to syncing of the Moon+'s "main folder". Settings page will tell you which one that is. Typically it is sdcard/Books or sdcard/eBooks. Sync it to a new folder on Dropbox. Wait until in syncs.
  6. On the new device, set up DropSync so that it will sync to the same folder as on the old device. sdcard/eBooks, for example. For a first time sync, set sync methods as "download only". Wait until it syncs.
  7. On the new device, on Moon+ Settings page, restore from backup you made in step 3.
  8. You are done, all your past and future reading is on the new device.
  9. Change sync method in Dropsync to "two way" so that your reading is synced across devices.
  10. I suspect you could now uncheck the "integrate with dropbox" from Moon+ on both devices since Dropsync will be doing all the syncing in a much more complete way that Moon+.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Photos workflow on Android

I recently switched from iPhone to a Xiaomi that runs Android. Taking photos is one of those things one uses the phone for and that too had to change.

This was my iPhone workflow
  1. Take photos in Camera+
  2. Review, delete or edit photos in Camera+.
  3. Save to camera roll (long process that may required manually preventing iPhone from sleeping).
  4. Dropbox then pushed the photos to the cloud (again, quite a pain, because iPhone may decide to go to sleep while doing it).
  5. Pick up Photos on a laptop, move them to a non-Dropbox folder. After all I do not have an unlimited Dropbox space.
  6. Use Total Commander to rename them and assign the time and date of when the photo was taken as the file name. Reason: one never knows when a photo editing software would change the times embedded in the jpeg. Camera+, for example, changes the file modification date but not, luckily the EXIF dates. 
  7. Use Picassa for final editing and organizing photos into native Windows folders. Photos are too important to be committed to a single tool. Like iPhoto or Windows Live Galley. Files and folders of the operating system are here to stay for decades.
  8. The final destination is synced on a Copy cloud for backup purposes. The main reason is that Copy is much more generous with free space than Dropbox.
Here is my new Android workflow:
  1. Take photos with stock camera app. In my case the MIUI camera app.
  2. Review, delete, edit photos with Google Photos. It comes with Android, has a very efficient GUI and filters are as good as any other tool. From time to time I may use PerfectlyClear (to deal with exposure problems), PicsArt (if in artistic mood) or Photo Editor (perspective corrections). Beware of photo editors that modify EXIF information and replace the info about when and where photo was taken with where and when it was edited (such as PicsArt)!
  3. Let Dropbox push the photos to the cloud. Works like a charm on Android.
  4. Use Dropbox (on another device perhaps) to delete duplicate versions of the same photo (edited, original, the one published in Instagram ...).
  5. Continue on laptop as above.
The main post processing job with mobile-phone photography is choosing what photos to keep. The fewer the better. The workflows above are such that allow for ample opportunities to delete.

If you have a tip or suggestion, feel free to leave it below.

Updated jan 3rd, 2015: Ditched CyanogenGallery. GooglePhotos is just as good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Saving Battery on Android

Android is quite liberal when it comes the use of battery power and tolerant towards apps that may want to run in the background. There are many apps claiming to save battery. But a few simple tricks using just the standard settings work as well. What is really important, however, is understanding how your phone or table work.

While Awake

There is not much you can do about conserving the power while you actively use your device. It just has to respond to whatever you are doing - reading books, browsing Facebook, snapping photos, watching videos or playing 3D games. There are a few things you can still do:
  • keep screen brightness lower rather than higher. Just to keep the screen bright can use a half of all the power. If you have an OLED screen, make your backgrounds black. Standard LCD displays use a back-light that indiscriminately lights the whole back of the LCD panel and than the LCD just makes sure what gets through. OLED actively lits every pixel if it needs to be lit.
  • use hardware acceleration to display graphics if your device gives you this option.
  • optimize WiFi power (in the advanced wifi settings).
Still, for active use, the device will drain 5-20% of the battery per hour. Reading books being perhaps the least power hungry and playing 3D games the most.

While Sleeping

This is actually where you win or loose the battle for a greener world. It all depends on how deeply the device will sleep while it is in your pocket on idle on the desk. The longer and the deeper it sleeps, the less it would do for you during that time. Like notifying you on that important update on Facebook, syncing the photos you just took, reminding you of a meeting in your calendar or an important mail from your boss.

Properly sleeping, a device may use less than 0.5% per hour. There are three kinds of things that are preventing sleep:
  • Background processes on you phone. Like that app that is recording how fast you run. Or that app connecting every few minutes to check new mail. Strategy: make sure that the stuff that you don't need is not running.
  • Syncing. A bit like the above except that it is linked to accounts and partly managed by Android system. Strategy: do not sync while sleeping.
  • Antennas catching signals from the outside, via 4G, 3G, wifi, bluetooth, GPS, NFC ... If someone calls you, the phone has to wake up. Should it also wake up if someone just liked your Instagram photo? Strategy: listen with an antenna that does not use much power and to events that matter.
Lets look at each of the three.

Background Processes

If it installed it may run. If it runs it draws power and, more importantly, may keep the device awake. Unlike Apple, Google lets misbehaving apps into the Play Store.
  • Go to settings - apps - running and see if anything is running that you installed, tried and forgot about. Uninstall the bastard.
  • Remove any screen widgets that you do not need.
  • Remove live wallpapers. If it is "live" it draws power.
  • From time to time kill all processes running on your device. There are apps for that (e.g. Cleanmaster) but you can also do it from settings ... apps ... running.
  • Prevent apps you do not want in the background all the time from staring in the first place. There are apps for that too (Cleanmaster does that too).

If you go to settings - accounts - (an account like Google) you will find if it syncs or not. And of course you would want your contacts, mail etc. to sync. What you may not want is that the syncing happens in the background. I mean what is the point waking the phone up if you changed a contact's email address on another device. It would suffice if the syncing happens when you use contacts.

Since we do have our devices in order to be in sync with what is going on in the world, I suggest you set things up so that they sync. But get an app that will stop syncing when your battery is low, overnight etc. I like Battery Widget Reborn.


The whole point of mobile devices is that they are mobile yet connected. They communicate with antennas but all are not created equal. Remember those old Nokia phones where the battery lasted a week or two? You can make your Android last that long if you turn it from smartphone to dumbphone.

The reason why a dumbphone could last so long on a single charge is that that part of the phone hardware was designed with energy use in mind. The 2D/3G interface in your phone is talking to the cell tower every 120 milliseconds. And only if the towers says "I have something for you" (like a call, SMS or push notification over internet protocol) that component wakes most of the phone, starts the processor etc. etc. to fetch the data and process it. Like play that MP3 for the received SMS.

The way these signaling works, how antennas are linked to the rest of the phone and how the physics of different frequencies is related to the power needed to communicate on that frequency, this is the summary:
  • Listening to 2G is least power hungry.
  • 3G is worse, 4G even worse.
  • WiFi is, by quite a margin, the worst. Half of the hardware has to be lit up to listen if there is a packet sent your way over WiFi.
So here is perhaps the most important advice in this article:
  • turn off WiFi while sleeping. This may increase the data bill a bit. But generally not much data transfer happens in the background anyway.
  • turn off "search for WiFi". You do not want your phone discovering WiFi networks while you drive through town. When you sit down and turn your phone on, it will connect to known hotspots and you will manually search for unknown ones.
  • use 2G not 3G. It draws less power and creates a weaker electromagnetic field in your pocket. It is good enough for talking and SMS, you will get all your email notifications. If you would like to surf the net you should temporarily switch to 3G. There is an app for that.
  • turn off location services. This is a bit drastic but at this time I do not know enough. Location services may wake up all kinds of stuff, including WiFi hardware and Google services like Google Now.
  • Goes without saying to turn off bluetooth by default as well.
And finally, know what is going on

There are tools that will let you know how your battery is draining. I like Battery HD and Better Battery stats. It would help you discover that misbehaving app that is keeping your phone warm.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

iTunes saga 5.0.1

I went through a painful iTunes experience. Had to. I try to avoid iTunes as much as possible, but since I wanted to update iOS version on my iPad, it was not possible to avoid it. The bottom line is that it sucks as a device management tool. Here's why:

iTunes is not a device management tool

It is a media management tool. It was made to put music and videos to iPod which started as an MP3 player. Some say it sucks there as well. I don't care. I copy photos as files, I transfer music with MediaMonkey and use mail and Dropbox to manage documents.

iTunes is patched to be a device management tool with key functions obscured by the media-optimized interface.

Sync doesn't

One of the most scary checkboxes in the Apple universe is the "Sync Apps". User is warned that if selected, all apps installed by the user on device will be removed. And they are. The trick is that before one does that, it makes sense to "transfer purchases". So that after "sync apps" removes them all, you can put them back. They get rearranged on the springboard pages but after a few minutes' work things are back to normal. It seems. It is still scary!

What sync should do to justify its name is to really sync - compare content on the device with content in iTunes and allow for both to be the same after the process. Actually I see no point in syncing stuff - apps are installed via WiFi anyway and purchases remembered by the AppStore in case one deletes them by mistake. But I decided to sync, because:

Backup doesn't

Before upgrading to iOS 5.0.1 I backed up the iPad. Upgraded. But when I restored it, there were no apps installed, just some 5 GB of memory was occupied with "other". Some backup! I would expect a backup to backup the device. Perhaps Apple would care to offer a selection of what to back up. Like system settings, apps, apps' settings, apps' data, music, videos ... But no. It seems only the things are backed up that are synced!

So I installed the iPad from scratch. Which is not a bad idea every now and then. Get rid of all the junk and dead wood and start clean.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Managing the Eurozone

Reading about Sarkzoy, Merkel to invite Van Rompuy to head Eurozone I must say I liked the idea 18 months ago. From a paper published in European View Volume 9, Number 1, 79-92, DOI: 10.1007/s12290-010-0117-3.
Enhance economic coordination. This is a logical requirement to maintain monetary integration. The crisis has shown its mechanisms should be taken much more seriously. In the enforcement of the Stability and Growth Pact the Commission should take advantage of the new provisions in the Lisbon treaty. The pact should be extended with supervision of private debt and the balance of payments. Because economic coordination calls for measures in the member states, the European Council should take the lead in shaping coordinated economic policy and the Commission in overseeing it. The coordination in the Monetary Union should be particularly strong and take place at a prime ministerial level (underlined today).

At the time (and now as well) the Monetary Union was handled by an almost informal meeting of the finance ministers of the Eurozone the evening before the meeting of ECFIN.
Today I would just add that economic policy coordination and budget supervision will solve little on the long run. It is an accounting measure. People will have to flow from regions doing bad to regions doing well, and money - in the form of investments rather than loans - will need to flow from countries with surpluses to countries with deficits. To do so the PIGS (and a few others) will have to set up an attractive business environment, because there are places outside of the EU where one can invest.