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How to upgrade the Nook HD to Kit Kat with Cyanogenmod
May 31, 2014 | 4:59 pm

Screenshot_2014-05-31-16-44-33Ever since I got my Nexus 7, my Nook HD has been kind of languishing. I’d upgraded it to the most recent Jelly Bean Cyanogenmod version a while back, but I was curious: what might Kit Kat be like on it? Could I run it? Given that I had the Nexus, I wasn’t in danger of losing my only Android tablet solution if I screwed it up, so I figured, why not break me off a piece? I found some not terribly user-friendly instructions, puzzled my way through them, and commenced. It worked for me, so I’m going to tell you...

Today only: Amazon knocks $80 off 8.9” Kindle Fire HD refurb
May 19, 2014 | 6:28 am

Just got notification of Amazon’s latest Gold Box deal: its 8.9” 4G LTE Kindle Fire HD tablets, refurbished, at $80 off retail. That knocks the 32 GB version from $300 down to $220, and the 64 from $350 to $270. Full 1 year warranty included; the AT&T 4G LTE data plan costs extra. Not really sure this is necessarily a huge bargain. $80 isn’t all that big a discount for a refurbished product, Also, the Fire tablets are too closely tied to Amazon’s own content ecosystem to count as a true general-purpose Android tablet; one of the attendant problems...

Republic Wireless offers affordable hybrid VOIP/cell smartphone service
April 18, 2014 | 3:06 am

20140418_003539_HDRI’d previously mentioned switching to an Android smartphone with Virgin Mobile, and enjoying it as far as it went. However, lately my Virgin Mobile phone went belly-up. I’d already promised myself that when I got my new full-time job I would be switching to Republic Wireless, so this was a good opportunity. I’ve only had my new Motorola Moto X for a day or so, but I’m already pretty pleased with the phone and the service so far. If you’ve never heard of Republic Wireless, it’s a small no-contract smartphone startup based on a clever idea. If you’re like...

New Android Developer numbers confirm disappearance of older Androids
April 2, 2014 | 2:31 pm

The newest figures from the Android Developers Dashboards, released on April 1st but apparently no kind of April Fool's Day joke, confirm that KitKat, Google's latest version of its Android OS, is steadily carving out a bigger and bigger slice of the Android market pie, now at 5.3 percent of the total user base, compared to only 1.8 percent in early February. Meanwhile, the different versions of Jelly Bean now occupy 61.4 percent in all of the user base, with Ice Cream Sandwich at another 14.3 percent, yielding a total uptake of Android OS 4+ versions of 81 percent. The demise...

Android’s Lloyd looks set to bite into Apple right down to the core
March 29, 2014 | 6:25 pm

Research firm Gartner Inc.'s latest prognostication on sales of combined digital devices of all formats and operating systems, "Forecast: PCs, Ultramobiles, and Mobile Phones, Worldwide, 2011-2018, 1Q14 Update," has some pretty uncomfortable reading for Apple execs, or fanboys. For it found that worldwide device shipments of all kinds running Android OS, currently around one third of digital device shipments overall, are likely to rise to around half of all shipments of all OS types by 2015. The overall numbers of all types, and of Apple devices, though, are likely to grow only incrementally. "Google’s objective is to increase Android’s footprint, and...

Pre-paid WiFi roundup: TruConnect, Wal-Mart, Karma
March 21, 2014 | 11:49 am

A while back I talked about the TruConnect Mi-Fi portable WiFi hotspot I had purchased. It’s time for an update, and discussion of a couple of reasonable prepaid Wi-Fi alternatives. First of all, I still use the TruConnect MiFi. In fact, I’m on my second one now. The first one stopped working after I dropped it; I bought a replacement and kept the battery from the old one, which means I now have access to twice the battery life, even before plugging in the three different battery backups I now have—bonus! I don’t use it as...

You can use a Bluetooth mouse with your Android tablet!
March 20, 2014 | 9:49 am

20140320_072854_HDRAlso, the sky is blue, water is wet, and the sun is warm. That’s probably what some of you are thinking upon reading that headline. But I’m pretty sure there must be plenty of people out there who aren’t aware of this yet, just because it’s not what you would assume a (non-Windows) tablet is made for. So this is a reminder to people who like to use their Android tablets for productivity purposes: there’s an easier way than tapping on the screen when you need to highlight things or move the cursor. I had known about this ability...

Behold, the $20 Android tablet
March 14, 2014 | 5:12 pm

tabletbundleWell, sort of. There are at least a couple of catches. Through March 31, TigerDirect is offering a 4 GB 7-inch Android 4.1 tablet bundled with an anti-virus software suite, Total Defense Premium Internet Security. The bundle costs $79.97, but includes a $60 rebate, effectively lowering the price to $20. Of course, to obtain the rebate, you must first activate the antivirus software, which involves giving the antivirus software company your credit card. Your first year of anti-virus service is free and you may cancel at any time, but you have to activate it before you get that...

OLPC, or not to be?
March 13, 2014 | 1:26 pm

olpcLaptopPDFgerrymWowioBlog Has OLPC jumped the shark? OLPC News seems to think so. In a recent (and controversial) post on the blog, Wayan Vota wonders if there’s any point to OLPC anymore. Vota contends that the XO-1 laptop is 7 years old—ancient technology in Internet time—and that Sugar, its operating system, is “history.” (Though he doesn’t mention the more recent XO-1.75 that came out in 2012.) It’s closed down its Boston office and its founder, Nicholas Negroponte, has long since moved on the global literacy X-Prize project. Yet let us be...

Story Cards tablet CCG gamifies reading for K-12 students
March 12, 2014 | 2:58 pm

storycardsHere's an intriguing game I just learned about. Educational publisher Amplify, makers of the Amplify Android tablet we covered last year, has come up with a way to gamify classic literature, in the hopes of getting students interested in reading it. Story Cards is a turn-based character-driven CCG. Players unlock character cards with specific abilities by reading the books they come from, and can gain bonuses by answering trivia questions related to the books in question. The game supports both single-player and multi-player modes. Students can build their own decks and compete with the game or each other. The...

N2A card on Nook HD: Two weeks later
March 11, 2014 | 12:23 pm

n2a card on nook hdI reported a few weeks ago that I had purchased an N2A card running Android KitKat for my Nook HD. I'd planned to use it for at least a week as my (close to) sole tablet and report back on my findings. I've now used it long enough to make some recommendations, and I made a few surprising discoveries along the way. The Nook wasn't quite my sole tablet. My iPad is just better for some tasks, but I used my N2A-running Nook enough to give it a good workout. I'll get my biggest objection out of the way first. It's not...

Ashton Kutcher to help develop mobile devices for Lenovo
March 1, 2014 | 3:44 am

kutcher_lenovoAshton Kutcher is taking his resemblance to Steve Jobs to a whole new level. Re/code reports that Lenovo has hired Kutcher on as a user interface engineer for its new tablet and smartphone products. Lenovo is buying Motorola from Google to beef up its mobile device chops, so it stands to reason they’d want a little extra help. The partnership isn’t actually as silly as it sounds. Kutcher did study biochemical engineering before getting into acting. While you can’t call a mobile device “biochemical,” to some extent the engineering skills will still carry over. And hey, if Ryan Seacrest...