Cable TV or Internet Streaming?

During the last few months, the hottest debate has been whether it’s even worth paying for a cable TV connection when everything is available on the internet. Let’s compare the costs first. In Minneapolis, the main companies providing the cable TV services are Comcast and Charter Communications. Comcast charges $50 per month and Charter charges roughly $65 for the same.

Assuming that I will be getting cable internet anyways, I will need to upgrade it to have streaming TV over it. With Charter, I will need to upgrade from 3 Mbps ($25/month) to a 30 Mbps ($48/month) connection. I will have to pay $23 extra. They currently have quite a few promotions going on, but the promotional prices are only valid for the first six months. Therefore, I would rather ignore those and stick to the actual price which I would have to pay in the long run.

With Comcast, their minimum speed is 20 Mbps for $30/month. But, they offer a $50/month package which includes 30 Mbps internet and Xfinity Streamplay (which includes streaming TV and movies).

So, if I only use internet with Comcast, I spend $50/month. Plus, I also need to get the services of an online streaming company like Amazon Instant or Hulu or Netflix. Since Netflix is a replacement for renting DVDs, I would probably get it regardless of cable TV or not.

Amazon Instant is free for Amazon Prime members which is $6.50/month and Hulu is $8/month. So, it costs roughly $58/month for internet streaming and around $80/month for cable TV and internet. I think the cost benefit is quite obvious!

Another major benefit of using internet streaming is not having to go through commercials! Finishing an episode of an hour long TV show in 40 minutes is a big time saver as well. Also, being able to watch it on your own time is like having a DVR with unlimited capacity. One con that I came across is the fact that none of the shows are available instantly. They are only available a day after airing. So, if you are interested in sports, you definitely need cable TV.

For me, the decision is obvious. Internet streaming is the way to go. Cable TV is becoming a thing of the past.


Installing custom ROM on HTC Wildfire S

A couple of days ago, my phone (Wildfire S) crashed on me and went into a looping boot screen. After researching till 3 am in the morning, I couldn’t find any solution to it. Finally, I gave up and wiped the whole thing to factory reset. Fortunately, I had set the phone to auto-backup every Sunday with Titanium Backup.

As I had posted earlier, I had already been facing problems of low internal storage on my phone. So, I decided this would be a good time to start fresh. Now I only re-installed apps from the backups as and when needed. With Link2SD installed, I still had almost 80 MB free.

During my research to come up for solutions to get the phone out of the boot loop, I came across a few posts on XDA Developers forums. I had done a lot of searching on those forums six months ago for new custom ROMs for my phone. Since it was so hard to root this phone, developers had not been interested in making ROMs for it. During those past six months, HTC Dev site released a way to root the phone. I’m guessing that caused more interest in developers to create ROMs for it.

In those same forums, now I was coming across many posts promoting different custom ROMs. Now, since I had wiped the phone and had confidence that I can restore (most of) my apps and data, I figured I should mess around with some custom ROMs and see what benefits it has. Apparently, installing custom ROMs is all about changing the whole UI plus giving more freedom to overclock the CPU and removing a lot of bloatware which comes with phone.

There were a lot of custom ROMs to choose from. Tigger31337 on those forums compiled a list of all the available ROMs and features of all of them. I went through the list and wanted to install the Cyanogen Mod (the unofficial version) since everyone had praises of Cyanogen’s ROMs in general. For some reason, the installation didn’t work on my phone. The next one I picked was Hense Mod 7. It has Sense, overclocking, and only uses 52 MB of internal memory.

After installing, the first thing I noticed, was the lock screen. It was similar to the ICS lock screen. I went about re-installing my apps and changing launcher, there wasn’t anything different visually. A lot of apps, including most of the Google apps, had been removed. In the background, the overclocking probably increased the CPU speed. It’s not apparent in daily use. I guess I have to take the developer’s word for it! ;)

Overall, it was a good experience to have changed the whole ROM and the sense of knowing that I could do it! Will probably try another ROM soon! :)

Link2SD on Android phones

I have been using an HTC Wildfire S for the past year. It has been my first experience with the Android OS. The flexibility of installing so many apps and customizing the whole phone was really appealing to me.

Unfortunately, the Wildfire S has only 150 MB of internal memory. Before purchasing it, I assumed that I could just add a 16 GB micro SD card and I would never be short of memory. I did not realize that the phone has very clear differences between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ memory. Just increasing the external memory doesn’t help me much. For six months, I kept the installed apps to the minimum so I could stay within the 150 MB limit. Even the apps which supported installing to SD card, left a big footprint on the internal memory. So even if an app’s description stated that it it could be installed to SD card, it did not hold much importance for me. Eventually, I realized I was hardly using the Android OS’s functionality of being so customizable and being able to install many different apps. I did a lot of research online and it all led to the same conclusion: root the phone!

Rooting the phone meant that it would give me access to the basic level of the phone which the manufacturer did not intend for the end user to mess with. Finally, I found someone who could use a specific hardware to give me root access.

After rooting the phone, I installed an app called Link2SD. This app makes a partition on the SD card and stores the app, its dex file, and its libraries to this partition. Then, it leaves a small file on the internal memory, which links to those files on the SD card. So whenever the phone accesses those files which it thought were on the internal memory, it gets re-routed to the files in the SD card. When I first installed it, and linked all the files, I had a 100 MB free on the internal memory! :)

I never thought I would ever run out of memory on the phone again! I just started installing apps because I thought I might someday like to use it. Over the last six months, I installed 100+ apps! Eventually, I again started running out of internal memory. With some more research online, turns out that the small files which Link2SD stores on the internal memory to let the phone re-route to the files on the SD card, were adding up. For each app, there was the apk file, the dex file and lib file. With a 100+ apps, these small link files added up to a lot of memory.

Now, it came to a point where I could not even keep 10 MB free on the internal memory. Everyday, I would get the warning that I am running low on space. I tried clearing the cache files, but they weren’t a big help. After trying everything I could think of, I started removing the apps because I thought since I was living within a 150 MB capacity before rooting the phone, maybe I can cut my app hoarding a bit and be in the clear. I uninstalled as many apps as I could think I could live without but I barely scraped 15 MB off the internal memory. Turns out, I have gotten so used to using most of the apps, that I can’t think of using my phone without them!

Now, all I can do, is either a) keep clearing the app cache frequently or b) stop installing apps and lose the flexibility and functionality of the Android OS. I have decided to keep clearing the app cache frequently and wait for a couple of months until I get a new phone with a large internal memory! :(

Tablet, Ultrabook or Laptop?

Like almost everyone, I have used a Windows interface on my computer always. I have been using an Android phone for the last year, and with every new app coming out, the reasons why I NEED a Windows OS on my computer seem less and less. Now that Windows 8 is also targeting tablets and a similar app ecosystem, I am considering whether I should ditch Windows altogether for an Android tablet.

In a couple of months, I will have to leave my desktop here and get a new computer in America. I would like to have the mobility of a tablet but also the comfort of typing on a keyboard. Most of the time I spend on the computer, is checking news on Google Reader or catching up on my social networks on Tweetdeck. But every now and then I have to type things like email, documents etc which would be really hard to do without a physical keyboard. For email, I use Gmail and for word processing I use Google Docs/Drive and for storage I use Google Drive, Dropbox and Box.

The tablets running Android can accommodate for any use I currently have or can think of! I will need to do web development for which there are a ton of Android apps. The only drawback with tablets is the lack of a physical keyboard.

With manufacturers aiming more towards mobility, the difference between ultrabooks and laptops are decreasing. I can easily assume that I do not need a DVD drive in my computer, which is the main difference left between an ultrabook and a laptop. So I don’t think buying a laptop would be feasible for me since I would like to have the mobility of carrying it to classes.

Between a tablet and an ultrabook the difference in hardware is: the ultrabook has the keyboard and trackpad as well as a bigger battery. But the tablet has a touchscreen! The difference in software is mostly Android for tablets and exclusively Windows for ultrabooks. As I mentioned earlier, I have no qualms about ditching Windows altogether and going for an Android OS.

In the end, I would like to have a tablet but with the functionality of a physical keyboard! If you have been keeping abreast with the current news, you will know that the only one I can come across which solve my problems is the ASUS Transformer range with the keyboard dock. It is a tablet which clicks into a keyboard dock giving it an additional battery life as well. The Transformer is a good merger between a tablet and an ultrabook, giving me the best of both!

Now the question remains, which one of the ASUS Transformer is the one for me? That is a post for another day! :)