Use A Keyboard With Your Tablet To Increase Productivity

If you use a tablet at work, you probably fall into one of two camps, either you use a portable keyboard case in which you carry the tablet, or you use the tablet without a keyboard and use it for referencing information. You enjoy the portability of the tablet and the ability to be productive as you move between appointments, but when you get back to your desk the tablet most likely goes unused until the next time you leave your desk.

I’ve recently found a way to increase my productivity by using my tablet while sitting at my desk, and the key component is the Logitech K480 keyboard. Each morning when I get to work I drop my Nexus 9 in a slot on the K480, placing it right below my computer monitor and in a position where I can easily see what is on the tablet. The K480 connects via bluetooth to my notebook and tablet computers and I can easily switch the keyboard between the two, making it easy to quickly enter text on the tablet.

During the day I keep my to-do list displayed on my Nexus 9, which helps me keep focused on the tasks I need to complete. If I am attending an online meeting or watching a webinar on the computer monitor, I can easily take notes using Evernote on the tablet. In short, what I find is that once you have a way to easily use a physical keyboard with a tablet you will find ways in which it can make you more productive.

The Logitech K480 is just under twelve inches wide, eight inches tall and weighs just under two pounds, so it is designed to sit on a desk rather than be carried around, although I find it fits easily in a computer bag. The physical dimensions put the keyboard on par in size with most notebook computer keyboards. In fact, the keys are the same size as on my notebook and are spaced far enough apart that I can type comfortably.

In addition to a full compliment of QWERTY keys and a number row, there is a row of function keys at the top that are programmed to perform many common tablet functions. For example, the F1 key is also the Android home button and the F2 key is the Android app switcher.

The K480 supports bluetooth connections with Android tablets and smartphones, iOS tablets and smartphones, along with computers running Windows, Mac OS, or Chrome OS. What makes the K480 different from other bluetooth keyboards is that you can configure it to connect to up to three different devices and easily switch between the three.

To switch between what device the keyboard connects to you move a dial, located at the top left of the keyboard, between three different positions. For example, the first device my K480 connects to is my notebook computer, the second device is the Nexus 9, and I simply switch the dial between the two positions as I move from computer to tablet.

A slot located along the top of the K480 provides a place to set a tablet in landscape, or if you prefer, there is enough space for a tablet and smartphone in portrait orientation. The slot positions tablets at a perfect viewing angle to be seen while typing.

At a cost of $49, the Logitech K480 is not the cheapest tablet keyboard on the market, but it is cheaper than the Microsoft Universal keyboard that also connects to multiple devices and costs $64. If you are looking for bluetooth keyboard to use with a computer, and you use a tablet and smartphone, I think you will be pleased with the functionality that the K480 provides and therefore recommend it for your consideration.

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Exchange Did Not Think My Nexus 9 Was Encrypted

Google recently upgraded Gmail for Android so that it now not only works with Gmail but also with POP/IMAP and Exchange. Last night I configured Gmail on my Nexus 9 to work with an Exchange server that enforces a security policy requiring device encryption. I didn’t expect the encryption policy to be an issue because the Nexus 9 is encrypted by default, as shipped from the factory. Gmail, or the Exchange server, didn’t believe the tablet was encrypted and therefore it refused to synchronize.

When I tap Settings, Security, the Encryption section is as shown below, indicating that the tablet is Encrypted. Clearly there was a disagreement between Exchange and Android on the tablet.

After searching via Google, I found others who have had the same problem. The key piece of information is posted in this issue thread on Google’s Android forum.

If you have configured devices running versions of Android earlier than Android 5.0 (Lollipop) to be encrypted, and you have a Nexus 9, you should notice a difference in how the Nexus 9 boots up versus those devices. In prior versions you had to enter your device PIN or password once during the initial startup and then the device boots a second time to decrypt and startup. After the device boots, you have to enter that PIN or password a second time in order to access the device.

The default boot up process of the Nexus 9, with encryption enabled as indicated in the screen shot above, does not have the initial PIN or password prompt. Instead, it starts up just like any other, non-encrypted Android device, although you will have to enter the PIN or password in order to unlock it. Apparently, the Exchange policy that confirms whether the device is encrypted is checking to see whether that startup PIN or password is assigned, but it doesn’t provide this specific information.

The encryption policy requirement causes Gmail to force you down the path of encrypting the device, in other words, it acts as if it thinks the device is not encrypted. If the battery has at least an 80% charge, and is plugged into power, you can elect to encrypt the tablet. The encryption process will reboot the device, determine that it is encrypted, and leave you at the screen lock, and you will keep cycling though this process.

To make Exchange, and presumably any other application or process that requires it, recognize that the device is encrypted you need to configure Android to require a PIN or password at device startup. Tap Settings, Security, Screen lock, then enter your PIN or Password. Tap the option you prefer on the screen lock screen, in my case Password, to display the page below and select the option Require Password (or PIN) To Start Device and tap continue. You will be prompted to enter either a Password or PIN and specify how notifications display on the screen lock page.

After configuring my Nexus 9 to require a password at device startup, Gmail and Exchange recognized that the tablet was encrypted and data synchronization began. Assuming that the Nexus 9 is in fact encrypted by default as the settings indicate, Android should be reporting that a device startup Password or PIN is required rather than acting as if the tablet is not encrypted. As it exists right now, the user is sent down an infinite loop of executing the process for encrypting an already encrypted device and returning back to the Gmail Exchange account settings to encounter the Encryption Security policy requirement over and over.

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Wearing Android Is A Drain

I got a Moto 360 for Christmas, and while I am happy with the watch’s functionality, I’ve been struggling to manage battery life.

Unlike Android smartphones, Android Wear does not include what I consider to be robust battery monitoring tools. You can use the Android Wear app to see a graph of battery life, with a prediction on how long the watch will last before the battery drains, but it doesn’t provide specific information on what is consuming battery life.

Wear Battery Stats provides a little more detail, but it is not as good as the GSam Battery Monitor app I use on my Moto X. The one important piece of information that Wear Battery Stats does provide is the percent of battery consumed per hour, which is the best indication of how well the device is using power.

Initially, the Moto 360 consumed more than 10% of battery per hour, which is not good at all and results in much less than 12 hours of overall battery life. Twelve hours is the minimum amount of total battery life one can live with, truth is you really need about 14 to 18 hours to get one through a full day from waking up to going to bed. I can live with recharging the watch every night as I sleep.

I should mention that I have the very latest version of Android Wear on the Moto 360, it was pushed to the watch right after I initially set it up.

Several posts I found on the Internet suggested that there is a break-in time during which the battery monitoring syncs with the actual battery life, and this seemed to coincide with my experience. I have also found that watch faces, particularly ones that display information like the temperature and steps, can consume a lot of power. Facer is a popular app for downloading free watch faces and changing them on the watch, but I have found it consumes too much power just by being on my phone and watch. Watchmaker appears to have a much less hit on battery life.

Over several days I managed to get the hourly battery drain down to around 5%, but after my first commute to work today battery during the one hour commute was drained 25%. What was I doing?

During my commute I use Pocket Casts to play podcasts on my smartphone. When I checked Android Wear, it indicated that Bluetooth was the highest power consumer. Best that I can tell, it seems that because playing Pocket Casts causes media controls to appear on the watch, doing so drained the battery at an alarming rate.

I found that there is no way to disable media controls on Android Wear. I posted on Google’s product support forum of my experience and theory that media controls was causing the problem, but others responded saying they have no problems using media controls.

Next, I went to Motorola’s forums and found a thread started by others who found that after they installed the latest version of Android Wear, version 5.0.1, on their Moto 360, they had worse battery life than prior to the upgrade. (I note that prior to an update released on September, the almost everyone was experiencing poor battery life, but the September update seems to fix that problem.) Some reported on this thread that Bluetooth appears to be the highest consumer, which aligns to my experience this morning.

I followed instructions posted on the thread to uninstall Android Wear and Moto Connect, do a factory reset of the watch, then go through the first start setup process, which according to others, restored battery life to what it was before the 5.0.1 update was installed. I know I didn’t do a factory rest after the update installed on my watch, so I am hopeful this resolves the problem.

Unfortunately, I am not home right now so I cannot recharge the watch to observe whether the reset that I have performed has resulted in better battery life. If it continues to discharge at the previous rate the watch will be dead by the time I commute back home later this afternoon. I hope that the factory reset provides the fix to the problem.

What I am finding is that battery life is a huge issue with Android Wear. If one spends more than $200 on a device they don’t want to limit how it is used just to get the battery to last a full day. A smart watch needs to provide full functionality or it ceases being “smart” and not worth the cost. Certainly, features that cannot be disabled, like media controls, must not be huge battery drainers. If the media controls continue to be a problem the only solution I can think of is to not use my smartphone for listening to podcasts, which totally unacceptable. A smartwatch should not decrease my smartphone’s functionality, particularly given the fact that it is really a smartphone accessory.

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The Nexus 9 Is Great, But Lollipop Is A Tad Sour

Once the Nexus 9 began to ship, I read all the reviews written, and the consensus has been that the hardware build quality did not meet the expectations for a tablet at its $399 price. The reviewers were comparing the Nexus 9 to the Nexus 7, which drew high praise for a combination of features and low ($249) price. In my experience, I have absolutely no problems with the hardware build quality, but I have had problems with Android 5.0 “Lollipop.”

Most point out two hardware problems: flexing of the back case when pressing in the middle near the Nexus logo and light bleed along the edges of the screen. Consensus seems to be that these items are not show stoppers, but disappointing for a tablet that costs as much as the Nexus 9.

The back case of my Nexus 9 does not flex when I press on the middle near the logo. Either assembly and/or manufacturing improvements were made before my Nexus 9 was assembled, or people are being really picky. I do see some light bleed, most noticable near the top right of the Nexus 9, but again I really don’t see it as a problem. Frankly, I think people are using their disappointment over the price of the Nexus 9 to color their opinion rather than evaluating the device on its merits and how it best fits their needs.

Where I have seen problems using my Nexus 9 is in the software, and I suspect it is due to a combination of bugs in Android 5.0 and apps not being fully compatible with this latest version of Android. The Facebook app particularly seems to have a problem.

Occasionally the screen just goes black when attempting to return to the home screen, although I can see the top status bar and bottom navigation buttons. Sometimes I can resolve the problem by switching to another app, and then selecting home, but there have also been times when I have had to shut down and restart the tablet to get it functioning properly.

Another problem I have had is home screen widgets failing to update, and the only fix is to restart the tablet. I note that both problems relate to the home screen, and seem to me to be memory related. It’s possible there is a memory leak issue causing the problems.

The good news with software problems is that they can be fixed, and Google has already released an update to Lollipop, Android 5.0.1. Unfortunately, while 5.0.1 has decreased the frequency that these problems appear, it has not eliminated them.

What cannot be changed are the hardware features, and I can report that I am very happy with the Nexus 9 hardware. The most significant feature of the Nexus 9 for me is the screen size and corresponding aspect ratio, and I love both. Open a book in the Kindle app and what you see is nearly identical to the printed page of most books. Web pages are very readable, and content in Evernote and Pocket display wonderfully.

The Nexus 9 is not as light as the Galaxy Note 8 it is replacing, but is much lighter than my iPad 3. I cannot hold the Nexus 9 in one hand for as long as I do the Note 8, but it is more comfortable to hold in two hands for long periods of time than the iPad. Would I like it to be lighter? Sure, I wouldn’t complain if it where lighter, but I find it light enough.

Battery life for the Nexus 9 is not as good as the iPad 3, but given that the Nexus 9 is smaller and lighter than the iPad, I really don’t expect it to be. GSam Batttery Monitor showing average screen on time per charge of 5 hours, 20 minutes and most the time battery discharges at a rate of 2 to 3% per hour. I don’t think the battery is completely conditioned yet, but I am not having any problem with the battery running out during my normal daily use.

Bottom line is that I am happy with my purchase of the Nexus 9. As I wrote previously, I don’t find the iPad Air 2 more compelling and with a larger screen, I prefer the Nexus 9 over the iPad Mini. I say this while fully acknowledging a bias towards Android. While I disagree with other reviewers who think the Nexus 9 is too expensive given their problems with its build quality, I do think that unless a person has a bias between iOS or Android, a decision to purchase the Nexus 9 comes down to price.

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What Tablet Should You Buy?

Hi, I am Frank, and I am the designated geek. You know, the type of person who you and your friends seek out on all matters technical. At this time of the year designated geeks get asked for recommendations for what computer, smartphone, or tablet to buy. If I am asked by a person I know every well, I might provide a specific recommendation, but usually my answer is going to be preceded by questions such as how they intend to use the device and whether they have any preferences.

I find that unless someone has very specific preferences, like they will never use Android or Windows, most people want to buy the best device that they can afford. Consequently, my recommendations on tablets are driven by price points. Obviously, if you absolutely want an iPad, you can go straight to Apple’s web site and pick one you can afford, although I do not recommend an iPad that does not have at least 32 GB of storage.

My answer to the question of which tablet to buy is a bit more complicated this year than last because of the emergence of large screen smartphones. Before buying a tablet, you might want to consider whether a 6-inch or 5-inch screen will suite the needs you will have for a tablet and smartphone. Many people are now opting to not buy two devices, but instead buying the iPhone 6 Plus, Nexus 6, Galaxy Note, or Moto X smartphones.

Frankly, I prefer smaller smartphones like the original Moto X, but they aren’t going to replace a tablet for me, and if you are like me, are interested in buying a new tablet, and don’t care whether the tablet is an iPad or runs Android, then my main question to you is, how much do you want to spend?

If you don’t want to spend more than $200 on a tablet, then you will stick with one of the 7-inch models available. While Google no longer sells the Nexus 7, you can buy good 7-inch tablets from Amazon (I recommend the Kindle Fire HDXs) and HP (I recommend the HP 8 G2) [Disclosure]. You will also find many 7-inch tablets for sale for less than $200, in some cases much less, but I do not recommend them because they either have very poor screens, slow processors, or too little memory to run Android apps at what I consider acceptable performance. Do not buy a tablet that has less than 16 GB of storage!

If you don’t want to spend more than $300 on a tablet, I recommend the Nvidia Shield, which runs Android, has a great screen and a fast processor. If you really want an iPad, the lowest price one I would consider is the 32 GB iPad Mini 2 for $349.

If you don’t want to spend more than $400 you have three options, if you are going to mostly use the tablet to read books then I recommend the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, if you want a Google Android tablet then I recommend the Nexus 9, or if you want the ability to see multiple apps on the screen at the same time, then I recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4-inch tablet.

Chances are that if you are willing to spend more than $400 on a tablet, you are interested in an iPad. You can buy either the 64 GB iPad Mini 3, if you are ok with a 7-inch screen, the 32 GB iPad Air. I do not recommend the 16 GB iPad Air 2, the minimum iPad Air 2 I recommend is the 64 GB model that costs $599.

If you are willing to spend more than $400 and want Android and a screen larger than the Nexus 9’s 8.9-inch screen, then I recommend either the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition if you want a stylus, and if you want one of the largest tablet screens there is the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2.

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