Remix OS and Remix Mini

I'm trying a computer experiment. It's an experiment in low-cost computing. As you may know, I've been fairly impressed with modern Android tablets, and also with Google's Drive suite of productivity apps. Because of this, I was keen to try a "greater" experience, but didn't want to spend a couple hundred dollars or more on a Chromebook. 

Enter Remix OS from jide.com, a desktop-optimized version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, and also the Remix Mini computer. While I use the term "computer" somewhat loosely, the Mini does meet the basic requirements to be called a computer.

Remix Mini computer.

Remix Mini computer.

I was unable to get Remix OS to install and run from a thumb drive, but when I downloaded the OS, I was offered a significant discound on the Mini, so I went ahead and ordered one. It arrived from Hong Kong in just a couple of days in an attractive and very well constructed package.

While I'm not going into a lot of detail in this post, I will say that initial startup was not particularly smooth. Out of the box, the Mini is configured for PAL video, and most US monitors or TVs cannot display the 50Hz video. In my case, a 24" Dell monitor and a fairly decent 32" HDTV wouldn't do the trick. I was lucky that the old, no-name 19" HDTV in our bedroom would work, so I could complete the setup. 

Jide claim compatiblilty with the majority of apps on the Google Play store. I've been fooling with the Mini for a couple of evenings now, and I've found some things that work well, and some that simply don't. More on that as I learn more about this little "machine". At this point, I'll probably report on my experiences every few days.

Perhaps These Are the 'Droids I'm Looking For

Some of you may remember back when I had an Android phone, an HTC Thunderbolt. You may remember how horrid I thought the device was. It was horrid. It still is. However, purchasing the new Behringer XR18 digital mixer has had me looking at Android devices, because the better mobile apps for the mixer are on Android.

Digiland DL718M 7" Android tablet running Behringer X Air Edit app with a customized screen layout.

What I've found is pleasantly surprising.

The first surprise is that I can get halfway decent, small (7") Android tablets, running the current version operating system, for under $40. "Halfway decent" means quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB Flash storage, USB 2.0/charge port, a micro-SD slot, a capacitive IPS touch screen with fairly decent resolution, and almost no bloatware. The tablet is good enough, in fact, that I could probably run the full version of the mixer control app on the 7" tablet with a reasonable degree of comfort.

The current Android is version 5.1 "Lollipop" (6.0 "Marshmallow" is just starting to ship), and it is a vast improvement over "Ice Cream Sandwich". It doesn't crash. It loads apps quickly. Networking works. Through an OTG USB connection, I can connect a keyboard and mouse (!). Of course, I didn't get the little tablets to use as my actual tablet. I [should] stick with my iPad for that. These are to be used as monitor mix tablets that I can hand to musicians during gigs. This allows them to control their own monitor mixes. At under $40, if something happens and the tablet gets damaged, I won't be out an expensive device.

I do have a larger, 10.1" Android tablet on order which should arrive tomorrow afternoon/evening. It cost all of $80, and features an 8-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB Flash storage, a capacitive IPS touch screen with 1280x800 resolution, micro-USB and full-size USB ports, HDMI output, Bluetooth 4.0, and a separate charging port. It also runs Android 5.1, and the reviews indicate that this one will also be relatively free of unnecessary software.

Obviously, these are not even close to being the best Android devices available. But so far, these seem to be performing adequately. For my particular application, I really don't want to spend very much money, as I'm taking these into a hostile environment. I need low-cost devices that won't break the bank if I need to replace them suddenly. That's been a constant fear when using the Mackie mixer that relies solely on iOS devices -- there's just no such thing as an $80 iPad that works.

Mobile Word on the 7" tablet

Back to improvements in the Android experience, at least briefly. Of course Google's apps all run smoothly, and the range of "office" apps has improved to cover pretty much any business need. For those who just must have Word and Excel, the mobile versions for Android look, feel, and act like their Windows counterparts, albeit with a reduced feature set.

Android has come a long, long way, even since version 4. In some ways, I like the newer version more than iOS. If you're facing a phone upgrade and have an older iPhone, you might want to at least check out the current Android offerings.

Power Mac

Copyright © 2013 Geren W. Mortensen, Jr. Verizon finally made Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) available for my HTC Thunderbolt yesterday. Of course, a newer version of Android (4.1 Jelly Bean) is already on the streets, but at least I got some love.... Anyway, I jumped on the upgrade. It took three tries, and well over an hour for the download/installation process to complete. ICS is a pretty decent upgrade over what I had been running (2.something-or-another). One of the things that was part of the new OS was a significant upgrade to the stock Camera app. The new app includes some of the things everyone is used to in a digital camera -- in camera effects and different shooting modes.

I made this image in my dark office, with the ISO set to auto, and using the new "Close Up" photo mode. I've got the phone setup so that camera files are automatically uploaded to my dropbox account. So, within a few seconds, the image was available on my little laptop. I opened the image in Fotor (a freebie Windows8-native photo editng app) and did a slight crop, and then added the high-contrast Lomo effect, as well as the border and watermark.

Straight from the camera, the few images I've taken look better -- noise seems better controlled, and the focus looks better. I'll play around with some of the new photo effects later. They look pretty well thought out.

I also re-joined Instagram, for what that's worth.

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Triggertrap Smartphone Camera Remote

  Triggertrap and Sony Alpha

Interested in using your smartphone or tablet as an advanced remote trigger for your camera? Check out Triggertrap. Depending on your phone and your camera, it allows you to set up a number of different triggering options. It works with over 270 camera models from Sony, Nikon, Canon and more, and there are versions for iOS and Android devices. Very slick.

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