Surviving with only Android for a week?

Is it possible to “survive” with only using Android-based devices for a whole week? I have been using a Sony Xperia Android tablet for a year’s time now, mainly as a convenient note taker at meetings, but never really as a laptop replacement. 

When I got the tablet I always thought that it would be interesting to see if it could actually be used as a proper working machine, particularly when used together with the accompanying bluetooth keyboard. Not for development, of course, but for everything else. Going on a week’s travel, I decided to try it out, that is, only bring the tablet, and leave my Ubuntu workhorse at home. It was a bit scary, particularly since I had several things I had to get done computer-wize this week, but I still decided to try it out. 

A week later, and here is my verdict…

Writing

I have never really gotten used to writing on small bluetooth keyboards, but, as many things in life, this is a matter of practice. After a couple of days, I actually managed to get up to quite some speed also on the tiny keyboard. It still feels small, but I have learned to write with very few mishits and now manage to write without thinking about the keyboard as a limitation

Battery

I know that some of the best laptops (and particularly MacBooks) sport a full-day battery life, but my little thing easily runs for 12 working hours without charging. So this one is definitely a win for the Sony tablet. 

Screen

One of the nice things with a tablet is that they are built for touch interaction. I have a touchscreen on my laptop as well, and Ubuntu even provides the relevant drivers for using it with for multi-touch control. But the bigger form factor of the laptop makes for a less than optimal touch-screen experience. So I rarely use the touch screen on my laptop very much.

Apps

The big advantage of a computer is that it is, well, a computer, with lots of programs. The quality of Android apps have increased steadily, though, and in my experience many apps are actually easier and faster to use than their computer/browser siblings. One example is the WordPress app that I am currently using to write this blog post. It is really smooth and nice-looking, and provides a better end-user experience than the online WordPress writing tool. 

Wifi and mobile network

One huge benefit of using the tablet is that it has a sim-card installed, providing a mobile connection (4G in most places) when I don’t have wifi available. This is a huge plus, as I never need to worry about remembering to download files before I disconnect. As my mobile provider now also sports free roaming throughout the EU, I have fast and reliable access most places I travel. 

File system

While all the above points have been positive, and in favour of the tablet, there are also some downsides. The biggest challenge is the of the lack of a proper file system. I use a combination of different types of cloud storage services (Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and UiO servers), so it is easy enough to get access to my files. But even though I can access, open files and move them around, it is very time-consuming and troublesome. 

A big advantage with Android over iOS is that you can actually access your files in different ways. But I still don’t like the app-centric approach that seems to dominate the world of mobile devices. I like to be able to create the files I need, store them where I want, organize them in folders according to my own needs, and open them with different types of programs. The idea of locking files to particular apps and services may be good for some users, but not for me. It just slows me down and makes my computing life less than ideal. 

So, all in all, while this week has certainly proven that I can get a lot of things done on a tablet, perhaps even more than I had thought, I am looking forwards to getting back to a proper computer again. 

Music Moves on YouTube

We have been running our free online course Music Moves a couple of times on the FutureLearn platform. The course consists of a number of videos, as well as articles, quizzes, etc., all of which help create a great learning experience for the people that take part.

One great thing about the FutureLearn model (similar to Coursera, etc.) is that they focus on creating a complete course. There are many benefits to such a model, not least to create a virtual student group that interact in a somewhat similar way to campus students. The downside to this, of course, is that the material is not accessible to others when the course is not running.

We spent a lot of time and effort on making all the material for Music Moves, and we see that some of it could also be useful in other contexts. This semester, for example, I am teaching a course called Interactive Music, in which some of the videos on motion capture would be very relevant for  the students.

For that reason we have now decided to upload all the Music Moves videos to YouTube, so that everyone can access them. We still encourage interested people to enroll in the complete course, though. The next run on FutureLearn is scheduled to start in September.

Starting up my new project: MICRO

I am super excited about starting up my new project – MICRO – Human Bodily Micromotion in Music Perception and Interaction – these days. Here is a short trailer explaining the main points of the project:

Now I have also been able to recruit two great researchers to join me, postdoctoral researcher Victor Evaristo Gonzalez Sanchez and PhD fellow Agata Zelechowska. Together we will work on human micromotion, how music influences such micromotion, and how we can get towards microinteraction in digital musical instruments. Great fun!

This week we have already made some progress, both in terms of analysis and synthesis. A sneak peak below, more to come…

Remove standard bookmarks in Nautilus

Yet another note to self on how to fix things in Ubuntu after a fresh install, found at askubuntu, this time to remove the standard bookmarks in the Nautilus file browser. I use a different setup of folders, and don’t really need these unused bookmarks. I wish it could have been easier to just right-click and delete to remove them (like for your own bookmarks), but it turns out to be a bit more tricky.

The default bookmarks are actually built from ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs, and this file is rebuilt on login from /etc/xdg/user-dirs.defaults. So it is necessary to modify both of the files, which may most easily be done with:

nano ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs

sudo nano /etc/xdg/user-dirs.defaults

In the nano editor you should comment out the ones that you don’t want.

And after a login the bookmarks are gone.

Move windows between screens on Ubuntu

As part of the fun of reinstalling an OS, you need to set up all the small things again (and you also get rid of all the small things you had set up and that you don’t need any longer…). This message is mainly a note to self about how to move windows between screens on Ubuntu with a key combination, found at stackexchange:

  1. Install CompizConfig Settings Manager:  sudo apt install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-plugins-extra
  2. Run Compiz from the dash
  3. Click Window Management
  4. Enable the Put plug-in (select the check-box)
  5. Click on Put
  6. Configure the shortcut for Put to next Output (click enable). I like to use <super-less>, since that key combination is very convenient on a Norwegian keyboard
  7. Log out and back in to make changes take effect

Alexander Refsum Jensenius