Ted and Judy’s Android Adventures: Chapter 14: Hold that Pressing Thought

When you are ready to work with text, unless you overrode it somehow, the standard Android keyboard appears on screen, which looks like a miniature QWERTY keyboard.

If you look at the screen real closely, you will see above-right on each key another character. In a lot of cases, this gives you a quick way to get to some characters without having to press the Sym key. We’ll demonstrate using a Google home screen on the phone (screen shots magnified to show text).


We want to type a dash (-). You can get it by switching to the Sym keyboard, but notice that it is the alternate character for Z. How do we get to it? Press and hold, of course!


Now let go – see the result below:


You may also have noticed that when you pressed and held, other characters appeared in the little box along with the dash. To get to one of those, while holding, swipe over to the character you want, in this case, the z with the accent above


Now let go – here’s the result after I cleared out the dash.


This also works on tablets, although the other characters associated with a particular key will probably be different.


Ted and Judy’s Android Adventures: Chapter 13: Tapping In

Like most screen-based devices, Android phones go dark for a short interval. When you push a button on the side of the  phone, the last screen you were working on appears. Here is my home screen as an example:


From here, you usually swipe SW to NE in a right-slash pattern to make calls, get to your apps, etc.

However, note that two messages from apps appear at the top of the screen. You can go directly into the originating app to act on these messages – here’s where the tapping comes in!

First, tap on the message you want to act on. The bottom of the screen becomes hazy, as shown below:


For this example, I chose the message from the Weather Channel app.

Now swipe, SW to NE within the hazy area only – you are taken directly to the app to act on the message!


Hope you like this shortcut!


If One Child Can Be Saved…

The gruesome and senseless murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell in Blacksburg, VA

This may seem strange coming from me – this piece is about this recent murder apparently committed by two teenage Virginia Tech engineering students – our condolences go out to Nicole’s family, friends, etc. Aside from being a Virginia resident for nearly 30 years now, why does this particular killing hit home for me? Judy and I have no children. We were both pretty well-behaved during both our early and our late teens. Neither of us has ever been victims of violent crime, much less committed any.

I’ve taught several Personal Computer Skills classes for Henrico County Adult Education – this is why this case really matters to me. Security is one of the major topics covered in this course. One of the things I stress is that parents should treat their kid’s use of electronic devices as if the kid is using the phone, sending “snail mail”, etc. – if you wouldn’t want the kid to meet the other party in person, try your best to not let the kid communicate with them on anything electronic. I’m not blaming anyone here – kids can be very sneaky and crafty. It will come out in the trials how Nicole got acquainted with her killers, what the back-stories were, etc., but we already know social media was definitely involved.

13-year-olds often have strange crushes – it’s a normal part of growing up, and Nicole went through some horrendous medical conditions when she was little. People of all ages are using all manner of social media to communicate – it only took hours to figure out that Nicole and the scum that stabbed her to death were communicating that way. What really makes want to puke is the conduct of the killers. He was a star athlete in high school. VA Tech doesn’t exactly admit stupid people into their engineering program. Some screws are seriously loose here. He’s been charged with first-degree murder, she as an accessory before and after – this may be upgraded to capital murder for both if they planned Nicole’s killing to silence her. At least, they caught them- he may have been on his way to being the next Ted Bundy, and she Eileen Wournos.

Some things obviously fell through the cracks, and should come out in the trials and/or plea agreements (which will probably happen so that the killers avoid the death penalty). Did Nicole’s parents pay too little attention to her? Did the killers know each other prior to attending Tech? Was there a failure of the app companies in their security processes? Did Nicole’s school do too little when the friend supposedly warned them of the relationship with the killer? Did anybody, students, faculty, etc, at Tech notice any strange behavior in the killers?

I hope that aside from providing justice for Nicole’s family, that  we can enjoy social media and somehow use it as a tool to help people with mental-health issues. I’m on my soapbox now – our politicians have been way too silent – maybe because no gun was involved, or they are incapable of saying anything without being partisan. We need a permanent nonpartisan blue-ribbon commission of educators, clergy, mental health professionals, politicians, law enforcement members, business leaders, etc. to take a look at this issue. Va. state senator Creigh Deeds would be a great choice to head this commission, due to the personal tragedy involving his son, his legislative experience, and Virginia’s proximity to Washington.

This is going to be a tough one, folks. I hope some of the people running for President will take a serious look at mental health in the US, but don’t hold your breath…

Ted and Judy’s Android Adventures: Chapter 3: Apps – an Introduction

The Galaxy S4, like other smartphones, runs apps. What is an app? App is short for application, which is the current terminology for computer program. In other words, it’s a set of digital instructions that your device can understand and execute, to perform a specific task. A device can be anything from the smallest watch-like gizmo that you wear on your wrist, to the giant mainframe computer that helps keep the space station in orbit, to everything else in between.

For the consumer, “app” generally refers to an app that you can call up by touching an icon (that small square picture) on your phone or tablet screen (or on your computer if it has touch-capability). The human-phone interface on Android devices is very heavily driven by apps. Some comments:

  • Tapping an icon on a phone is roughly equivalent to clicking on an item using a mouse on a PC.
  • Tap the Phone icon to activate the app to make a call, pick up a call, etc. Apps also control your contact list, email, calendars, etc.
  • Your Internet browser is an app – since Android is Google, you get the Chrome app with your initial setup, but you can download apps for other browsers
  • From your start screen, you tap an icon called Apps to access most of the apps on your phone
  • To change phone settings, including selecting a wi-fi network, you tap the Settings app
  • You can download additional apps to your phone – within the apps list, you click the down-arrow to get to already-downloaded apps
  • Android Apps to download are available in the Play Store – many of these are free. Stores, restaurants, TV channels, etc., have their own apps. Installation on your device is part of the download process.
  • The cameras, and the gallery of pictures, are also activated by apps. If you want to put pictures on Instagram, a popular photo site, you have to download the app for that.
  • Holding down the button just beneath the screen, lightly for a few seconds, brings up the list of apps that are currently running. Tap “Close All’ to immediately reduce clutter.

Do note that this barely scratches the subject of apps – in general, there are many more apps for an Android device than there are for a PC. Specific apps as appropriate will be discussed in further chapters of this topic.

Ted and Judy’s Android Adventures: Chapter 2: It’s a Phone!

Happy New Year to all my readers – please feel free to spread the word about this blog!

One of the most amazing things about the Galaxy S4 is that it is a cell phone! One can get lost in all the other features, but you can actually make and receive phone calls (and text messages) on this device!

Some nice features:

  • When bringing up the keypad, the phone buttons are nice and large.
  • If a phone number appears on a web page or in an app, you can sometimes click on the phone number and the phone-call app will come up and you can call that number (eliminating the need for cut-and-paste)
  • The contact list was automatically built (being that Android is by Google, it grabbed my Gmail contacts). It also appeared to pull in my Facebook contacts too – in fact, one of my hardest ongoing jobs is removing duplicate contacts, and contacts I would never call or text in real life.
  • The recent-call feature is very nice – you can just click on an item in the list, then call that number.

One gripe – the battery drains down quite often – right now, I am using home and car chargers, but I may add one of those charger packs to our equipment list.

Next up: Apps

Ted and Judy’s Android Adventures: Chapter 1: The Beginning

About a couple of months ago, I finally broke down and entered the smartphone era. After an exhaustive search, and getting a good deal on Verizon service at Best Buy, I purchased the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy S4. This is a very nice phone, with great touch-response and a very attractive display.

Being used to Windows-based PCs, I found this gizmo a but confusing at first, but since a lot of PC apps (formerly known as programs) had gone to look-and-feels similar to phone and tablet apps, the learning curve to get started was not that bad.

One thing I am slowly getting used to is the tiny on-screen keyboard. When you need to type something, you tap the location on the screen and the keyboard pops up. Depending on the app, it sometimes pays to sacrifice screen area to have bigger “keys” by turning the phone sideways. Switching between alphanumeric and symbols is a bit of a pain, too – but – one thing I do like is the think-ahead feature – when you start typing, the device attempts to think for you. For instance, if the last word you typed was “going”, the word “to” may be presented to you as a choice – then you just tap it and the system supplies the separating space, too.

My wife Judy and I are also looking to get a tablet – and unless something odd comes up, that will be an Android, too.