Random Thoughts – Randosity!

App-casting vs Screen Casting vs Streaming

Posted in Android, Apple, computers by commorancy on October 8, 2016

A lot of people seem to be confused by these three types of broadcasting software, including using AppleTV and Chromecast for this. I’m here to help clear that up. Let’s explore.

Streaming and Buffering

What exactly is streaming? Streaming is when software takes content (music file, movie file, etc) and sends it out in small chunks from the beginning to the end of the file over a network. While streaming, there is a placeholder point in time entry point to begin watching. In other words, when you join a streaming feed, you’re watching that feed live. If you join 20 minutes in, you’ll miss the first 20 minutes that has already played. The placeholder point is the point in time that’s currently being played from the media.

What about broadcasting? Is it the same? Yes, it is a form of streaming that is used during app-casting and screen casting. So, if you join a live screen casting feed, you won’t get to see what has been in the past, you only get to see the point forward from when you joined the stream already in progress.

Streaming also uses buffering to support its actions. That means that during the streaming process, the application buffers up a bunch of content into memory (the fastest type of storage possible) so that it can grab the next chunk rapidly and send it to the streaming service for smooth continuous playback. Buffering is used to avoid access to slow devices like hard drives and other storage devices which may impair smooth playback. Because of buffering, there may be a delay in what your screen shows versus what the person watching sees.

Streaming encodes the content to a streaming format at broadcast time. It is also decoded by the client at the during streaming. Therefore, the endpoint client viewer may choose to reduce the resolution of the content to improve streaming performance. For this reason, this is why if you’re watching Netflix or Amazon, the resolution may drop to less than HD. However, if you’re watching content across a local network at home, this should never be a problem (unless your network or WiFi is just really crappy).

Note, I will use the word stream and cast interchangeably to mean the same thing within this article.

Screen Casting (i.e., Screen Mirroring)

Screen casting is broadcasting the screen of your device itself. For example, if you want to broadcast the screen of your MacBook or your Android tablet, it will broadcast at whatever resolution your screen is currently running. If your resolution is 1920×1080, then it will stream your screen at HD resolution. If your screen’s resolution is less than this, it will stream the content at less than HD. If your screen resolution is more than this, it will stream at that resolution. Though, with some streaming software, you can set a top end resolution and encoder to prevent sending out too much data.

Because screen casting or mirroring only casts in the resolution of your screen, this is not optimal for streaming movies (unless your movie is 1080p and matches your screen’s resolution). If your screen runs at a lower resolution than the content, it is not optimal for watching moves. If you want to watch UltraHD movies, this is also not possible in most cases (unless your PC has an extremely advanced graphics card).

For many mobile devices and because screen resolutions vary, it’s likely your screen resolution is far less than the content you want to watch. For this reason, app developers have created App-casting.

App-casting

What exactly is app-casting? App-casting distances itself from the screen resolution by streaming the content at the content’s resolution. App-casting is when you use AppleTV or Chromecast to stream content from an app-cast enabled application on your computer or mobile device. Because the content dictates the resolution, there are no pesky screen resolution problems to get in the way. This means content streamed through applications can present their content at full native resolutions.

For Netflix, ABC TV, NBC TV, Hulu and Amazon, this means you’ll be watching those movies and TV shows in glorious full 1080p resolution (or whatever the app-casting receiver supports and also based on the content). For example today, AppleTV and Chromecast only support up to HD resolution (i.e., 1080p). In the future, we may see UltraHD versions of AppleTV and Chromecast become available. However, for now, we’re limited to HD with these devices.

Though, once an UltraHD version of AppleTV and Chromecast arrive, it also means that streaming to these devices means heftier bandwidth requirements. So, your home network might be fine for 1080p content casting, UltraHD content streaming may not run quite as well without better bandwidth. To stream UltraHD 4k content, you may have to upgrade your wireless network.

Note that Google has recently announced an UltraHD 4k Chromecast will be available in November 2016.

Chromecast and AppleTV

These are the two leading app-streaming devices on the market. AppleTV supports iOS app streaming and Chromecast supports Android OS streaming. While these are commonly used and sold for this purpose, they are by no means the only software or hardware solutions on the market.

For example, DLNA / UPnP is common for streaming to TVs, Xbox One and PS4. This type of streaming can be found in apps available on both iOS and Android (as well as MacOS, Linux and Windows). When streaming content from a DLNA compatible app, you don’t need to have a special receiver like AppleTV or Chromecast. Many smart TVs today support DLNA streaming right out of the box. To use DLNA, your media device needs to present a list of items available. After selection, DLNA will begin streaming to your TV or other device that supports DLNA. For example, Vizio TVs offer a Multimedia app from the Via menu to start DLNA search for media servers.

Note that you do not have to buy an AppleTV or Chromecast to stream your tablet, desktop or other device. There are free and paid DLNA, Twitch and YouTube streaming apps. You can stream both your display and possibly even your apps using third party apps. You’ll need to search for DLNA streaming app in whichever app store is associated with your device.

DLNA stands for Digital Living Network Alliance. It is an organization that advocates for content streaming around the home.

App-casting compatibility

To cast from an application on any specific operating system to devices like Chromecast or AppleTV, the app must support this remote display protocol. Not all apps support it, though Apple and Google built apps do. Third party applications must build their software to support these external displays. If the app doesn’t support it, you won’t see the necessary icon to begin streaming.

For example, to stream on iOS, a specific icon appears to let you know that an Apple TV is available. For Android, a similar icon also appears if a Chromecast is available. If you don’t see the streaming icon on your application, it means that your application does not support streaming to a remote display. You will need to ask the developer of that software to support it.

There are also third party casting apps that support streaming video data to remote displays or remote services like Twitch or YouTube. You don’t necessarily need to buy an AppleTV or Chromecast to stream your display.

Third Party Streaming Apps

For computers or mobile devices, there are a number of streaming apps available. Some require special setups, some support Twitch or YouTube and others support DLNA / UPnP. If you’re looking to stream content to the Internet, then you’ll want to pick one up that supports Twitch or YouTube. If you’re wanting to stream your data just to your local network, you’ll want to find one that supports DLNA.

You’ll just need to search through the appropriate app store to find the software you need. Just search for DLNA streaming and you’ll find a number apps that support this protocol. Note that apps that don’t require the use of Chromecast or AppleTV may tend to be less robust at streaming. This means they may crash or otherwise not work as expected. Using AppleTV or Chromecast may be your best alternative if you need to rely on having perfect streaming for a project or presentation.

Basically, for stability and usability, I recommend using an AppleTV or Chromecast. But, there are other software products that may work.

Rant Time: You gotta hate Lollipop

Posted in Android, botch, business by commorancy on May 27, 2015

You know, I can’t understand the predilection for glaring white background and garish bright colors on a tablet. In comes Lollipop trying to act all like iOS and failing miserably at it. OMG, Lollipop has to be one of the most garish and horrible UI interfaces that has come along in a very long time. Let’s explore.

Garish Colors on Blinding White

Skeumorphism had its place in the computer world. Yes, it was ‘old timey’ and needed to be updated, but to what exactly? One thing can be said, skeumorphism was at least easy on the eyes. But, Lollipop with its white backgrounds and horrible teals, pinks and oranges? Really? This is considered to be ‘better’? Sorry, but no. A thousand times, no. As a graphic designer and artist, this is one of the worst UI choices for handheld devices.

If, for example, the engineers actually used the light sensor on the damned things and then determined that when it’s dark in the room and then changed the UI to something easier in the dark, I’d be all over that. But, nooooooo. You’re stuck with these stupid blinding white screens even when the room is pitch black. So there you have your flashlight lighting up your face all while trying to use your tablet. I mean, how stupid are these UI designers? You put light sensors on it… use them.

Stupid UI Designers?

Seriously, I’ll take skeumorphism over these blazing white screens any day. I mean seriously? Who in their right mind thought that this in any way looked good? Why rip a page from Apple’s horrible design book when you don’t have to. I’ll be glad when Lollipop is a thing of the past and Google has decided to blaze their own UI way. No Google, you don’t need to follow after Apple.

Just because some asinine designer at Apple thinks this looks good doesn’t mean that it actually does. Get rid of the white screens. Let’s go back to themes so we can choose the way we want our systems to look. Blaze your own path and give users the choice of the look of their OS. Choice is the answer, not forced compliance.

Smaller and Smaller

What’s with the smaller and smaller panels and buttons all of a sudden? At first the pull down was large and fit nicely on the screen. The buttons were easy to touch and sliders easy to move. Now it’s half the size with the buttons and sliders nearly impossible to grab and press. Let’s go back to resizing buttons so they are finger friendly on a tablet, mkay? The notification pulldown has now been reduced in size for no apparent reason. Pop up questions are half the size. The buttons and sliders on there are twice has hard to hit with a finger.

Google, blaze your own path

Apple has now become the poster child of how not to design UI interfaces. You don’t want to rip pages from their book. Take your UI designers into a room and let them come up with ideas that are unique to Google and Android. Don’t force them to use a look and feel from an entirely different company using ideas that are outright horrible.

Note, I prefer dark or grey backgrounds. They are much easier on the eyes than blazing white backgrounds. White screens are great for only one thing, lighting up the room. They are extremely hard on the eyes and don’t necessarily make text easier to read.

Google, please go back to blazing your own trail separately from Apple. I’ll be entirely glad when this garish-colors-on-white-fad goes the way of the Pet Rock. And once this stupid trend is finally gone, I’ll be shouting good riddance from the top of the Los Altos hills. It also won’t be soon enough. For now, dayam Google, get it together will ya?

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Why Google’s search engine secretly sucks

Posted in Android, botch by commorancy on October 24, 2013

While Google touts its speed in returning results, and indeed the speed is impressive, it’s not the speed that matters. What matters is quality of the results and this is why Google’s search secretly sucks.  Let’s explore.

Google circa 1998

When Google first began in the late 90s, it fumbled to make a significant impact in search. It couldn’t quite figure out how to make searching that much better than what was already in place. From those early days until about 2005 and through many man hours of work, Google’s speed and results have improved. But, those improvements pretty much abruptly ended approximately 2005-2007. You know, right around the time that Android was a twinkle in someone’s eye.  Since then, all we have pretty much seen is stagnation in search technology. Search hasn’t improved in recent years, and even Google acknowledges this because instead of spending time improving search, now Google spends its copious free time creating Android, Gmail, Google Apps, Google Chrome, ChromeOS, Chrome tablets, Google Play, Google Docs, Google Maps, YouTube and the list goes on.  These are diversionary tactics to keep you from seeing just how bad Google search quality really is.

Searching Google Today

While Google’s search technology is still the fastest available and is still better than most other engines, it’s really become stagnant.  So stagnant, in fact, that the quality of the search results really matter very little to Google. For example, I would say that at least 1-2 links out of every search I have performed in the last year is dead.  Basically, it displays results for sites that are either down, sites that lead to placeholder pages or sites that lead to 404 or other unusable content.

I mean, what’s the point in that? I don’t want to look back in time at links that may have had revelance in 1998 or even 2003, I want to find links that are relevant to me today. It’s clear that while Google says they are doing quality optimizations, what they claim and what’s actually coming up in the search results is entirely different. Something about this situation isn’t working.

Dead Links

Really? I mean, come on Google. What’s the point in placing a completely dead link in the top 3 search results? What purpose does that really serve? What this says is that Google has so much cruft and garbage inside their database that’s now becoming dominant during search results. If that’s where we are today, it’s only going to get progressively worse, not better. Note, I’m finding it’s not just one link that’s bad, but several on the same set of results.

This issue is completely preventable. But, it’s going to take automation to fix this. Google needs to scour its indexed links and validate whether or not a site is actually providing the data it’s supposed to be providing. Instead, it appears Google found a page there some years ago, indexed it and that’s the way it has stayed. In reality, this cruft needs to be regularly cleaned out.  If search results had index dates stamped near the results stating when the information was originally indexed, I could simply avoid clicking a link that was last indexed 5 years ago. In fact, with the right UI, I could even request it to include only results that have been indexed in the last 12 months, perhaps even in the last 3 months. Maybe this is there in the ‘advanced search area’? It’s certainly not there in the basic search results.

Fresh Content

By knowing when an indexed link was created in Google and by allowing exclusion of old links, I can then tailor my search results to the most recent and freshest content. Granted, Google should automatically be doing this on my behalf, but they aren’t. Instead, it’s just all manner of random old garbage that gets thrown up in search results… and this is exactly the reason Google’s search secretly sucks.

Can it be fixed? Yes. Will Google ever really fix this? Probably not. It’s not really worth their time at this point. They’re too interested in screwing over SEO, invading privacy in Android and doing other projects unrelated to search.  All of those projects are far more attractive and cool to ever consider spending time doing ugly old janitorial work to clean up the mess they created in the first place. No one likes having to clean up a mess. Cleanup work never involves using cool new technologies, but yet it still has to get done. Unfortunately, this is the very real, very ugly secret why Google’s search sucks. It’s also the secret that Google doesn’t want you to know.

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IOS7: The New Android?

Posted in Android, Apple, botch by commorancy on September 19, 2013

Note, apparently some readers think I do a lot of ranting. Sometimes I do. In this case, you better get prepared for a rant of epic proportions because here it comes.

White screens and borders, really?

BadWhiteCalendar

Ok, so when I flipped open my iPad the first time on IOS7, I’m greeted by white screens (or nearly white screens). At first I wasn’t sure to make of it. Now, I’m quite sure. The white screens must go. If you’re trying to use the iPad in the dark, it’s like having a flashlight shining in your face.  No, thanks.

Not only are the white screens extremely distracting, they’re hard on the eyes and there’s nothing quite like staring at the end of a flashlight when you’re sitting in the dark. No, bad idea. Worse, whatever happened to the light sensor? Come on Apple. You put the sensor on the unit, use the damned thing will you? If I’m in a low light environment, choose a background that complements the low light environment. If I’m in a high light environment, again, choose a brighter background to make the contrast stand out.  I don’t need to be blinded in the dark and I don’t want to see a washed out screen when it’s bright outside.

Gag! the Calendar app has that white background with red letters by default. Red? Really?!? I may have to rethink my Calendaring again.Whatever happened to all of that great engineering that used to work at Apple?  I think they’ve all gone to Android. Let’s put some thinking caps on shall we?

What’s worse than white screens?

BadiOS7

I’ll answer that question.. It’s when the OS flips back and forth between black and white screens.  So, now not only do you have blinding white screens with garish colored fonts staring you in the face, now iOS has to flip between the solid white screens to solid black screens. Sure, there’s this fade transition thing, but it’s still overbearing and unnecessary.  This is, in my estimation, one of the absolute worst design practices I’ve ever seen from any company. Who would ever design any application where one screen is almost solid white and the next is almost solid black.  This is the absolute antithesis of good design. No graphical designer of any merit would even hint at let alone pitch such a stark transition between two elements.

An OS should be about experiences that let you get your work done. Not experiences that distract you from that purpose. If anything, the OS should blend into the background and facilitate getting the work done.  Instead, the OS practically waving a red flag in your face and saying, “Here, look at me”.

Photos App is absolutely broken

BadPhotosApp

When you’re just viewing photos, there’s this annoying white bar at the top of the screen that covers over the top 10% of the image. What’s that all about? I mean, can’t Apple software engineers figure out how to properly scale an image so it can be fully visible on the screen without being covered over by menu bars?

If you try to set wallpaper with the Photos app by scaling or sizing an image, be prepared for the whole app to lock up and possibly even cause your whole iPad to spontaneously reboot. This app is seriously unstable. Was this software even remotely beta tested? Once again, come on Apple.  I can understand if something like Bob’s app was borked up, but the Photos app is pretty much a necessity. This has to be fixed and pronto.

And, to top it off, when you can manage to get the app not to lock the whole blasted iPad up when moving and scaling, it pushes 30% of the image off the top of the screen with no way to correct it.  What crap!

Background Image movement effect

That new live motion background thing is the most worthless use of extra CPU cycles I’ve seen yet.  The short and sweet of it is, let me turn it off.  Don’t care about, don’t want it, don’t need it. And, the affect is so small it’s just pointless.  I move my iPad 10 inches back and forth and the background moves maybe 1 pixel. Stupid waste of resources.

Lock and Unlock sounds no longer work.

Nuff said. [UPDATE] I kind of figured this one out. After the update to iOS7, these sounds are inexplicably disabled. However, if you go into the Sounds area in settings, you can turn it off and back on. This at least enables the lock sound. It does appear, though, that Apple has stripped the unlock sound from the system.

Carnival Colors

Where are we, Google?  Seriously. I don’t want garish colors shining in my face at practically every turn. Some of the colors are almost like fluorescent green colors. It’s like, bad and ugly all at the same time.  I don’t mind the flat look, but these colors seriously need to be muted down a whole lot.

Android Clone

Apple just ripped a page out of the Android book with IOS7, especially when it comes to the so-called streamlined fonts. This OS looks and feels more like Android than any other OS I’ve seen.  We already have an Android. We don’t need another one. Do something original Apple. After all, that’s what you used to be known for. If I wanted to buy an Android tablet, I’d go buy one.  I don’t want my Apple product to look and feel like an Android tablet.  Of course, now we just need to wait for Google to file a lawsuit against Apple.

I’m hoping that Apple can get this quickly derailing train back on track soon with 7.0.1 as this thing called IOS7 is a hot mess. … and I thought IOS6 was bad.

Patent Wars: When IP protection becomes anti-competitive

Posted in Android, Apple, business by commorancy on September 3, 2012

So, who wins when companies like Apple and Samsung battle over intellectual property?  No one.  Here’s why.

Apple doesn’t win

Apple thinks they will win because they think this action will block a rival product based on the fact that they claim they invented it first.  In fact, it’s not that they ‘invented’ it first, it’s because they patented it first.  Whomever gets to the patent office gets exclusivity.  That’s how patent law works.  However, Apple won’t win because of the negative publicity backlash that it is now unfolding onto the Apple brand.  The backlash against Apple is already beginning and it may end up becoming Apple’s downfall.

Seriously, are we to believe that there is any possibility of confusion between a Samsung device running Android and an Apple device running IOS?  The operating systems aren’t even remotely similar.  The sole and only reason to prevent another company from putting something on the market is to avoid brand or product confusion.  I hardly think that anyone would confuse a Samsung Galaxy device clearly labeled with the Samsung brand with an Apple device clearly labeled with the Apple brand.  Heck, the Galaxy devices don’t even resemble the iPhone now.

Clerk: Why are you returning this device today?

Consumer: Oh, I’m bringing this Samsung back because I thought it was an iPhone.

I don’t think so.  This is not a likely scenario at all.  I can’t imagine any consumer could walk into a Samsung retailer and confuse a Galaxy S with an iPhone.  So, why is Apple so adamant that this device is a threat to their survival?  In fact, if anything is a threat to Apple’s survival, it’s Apple.  Playing these legal games is the best way to actually make consumers become aware and interested in the exact devices they hope to prevent being placed onto store shelves.  If Apple had left well enough alone, these devices would have fallen into obscurity on their own and the iPhone would still reign supreme.  Calling undue attention to another device, in just the way Apple is doing, is just ripe to backfire on Apple.  And, backfire it appears to be doing.  Way to go Apple.

Samsung doesn’t win

I’m not going to cheer for Samsung here.  Are they a victim?  Not really.  They’re a large corporation that’s out to make a buck on a design that’s far too similar to one that someone else created.  I won’t say that Apple is in the right here, but Samsung is also not in the right by doing what they did.  I personally don’t like Samsung devices.  They’re too unreliable and don’t last.  I’ve bought many Samsung devices and they just don’t hold up long enough.  The quality is too low for the price they charge.  Making quality products is a whole separate issue from producing a product that cashes in on a look from a competitor.  Samsung, at least have the decency to hire designers that produce original looking devices designs. It’s really not that hard.  There are plenty of good industrial designers who could produce a high quality unique case design that could easily rival Apple’s designs without looking remotely like an Apple product.  More than that, though, why not make products that actually last?

Consumers don’t win

By getting injunctions to prevent products from hitting the store shelves, this is tantamount to legalized anti-competitive practices. Legalized because the courts agree with and, further, set up injunctions to prevent these devices from hitting the shelves or be sold within the US.  This hurts the consumer because now there is less choice.  Apple’s thinking is that with less choice comes more likelihood that the consumer will choose Apple instead.  Unfortunately, Apple didn’t take into account the PR nightmare that’s unfolding here.  Apple, don’t underestimate the consumer’s intelligence. Consumers understand that Apple is taking legalized anti-competitive measures to try to win the consumer choice war.  It is, however, the consumer’s choice as to what phone to buy and use.  It is not Apple’s choice.  Companies, when they get to a certain size and arrogance, tend to forget or choose to ignore consumer choice.  This is capitalism and consumers have freedom of choice.

Consumers will vote with their wallets in the end and that will likely be to Apple’s detriment in the long haul.  Instead, Apple needs to drop this lawsuit now and let these devices onto the market from Samsung. Let the devices hold their own or fail on their own merits.  The consumers will decide what they want to use.  Since there is not a real possibility that consumers could mistake a Galaxy S Android phone for an IOS based iPhone, there is really no damage done here.  It’s only perceived damage.

The real damage being done today, that Apple is doing to itself, is the public relations debacle they face with consumer sentiment.  Consumer sentiment is real and it is tangible and it can make or break a company. The longer these IP issues drag on and the more devices they try to block, the more people will pull away from Apple and leave the company, once again, high and dry.

Apple’s future uncertain

Apple needs to stop, look and listen.  They need to make better, faster and more useful devices instead of pulling out the legal team to fight a losing battle.  Keep the innovation going.  Forget the old wars and move on.  Heck, the whole thing started because Samsung made a phone that resembled the iPhone 3 case style.  They don’t even sell the iPhone 3 case style anymore.  The Galaxy Tab looks nothing remotely like an iPad either.  So, the whole ‘it looks like an IOS device’ issue is now moot.  It’s just being dragged on because of Job’s complete hated of Android.

Unfortunately for Apple, Android is here to stay and it’s not going away anytime soon.  Locking out Samsung does not in any way lock out LG or HTC or any other device that runs Android.  Instead, Apple needs to focus on innovation with IOS and its new devices and drop this PR nightmare that’s now unfolding in the consumer space. If Apple wants to drive a wedge between the consumer and the company, Apple’s current legal strategy is perfect.  If Apple wants to produce high quality easy-t0-use devices, that goal has nothing to do with blocking the sale of similar devices via legal channels.

Apple is now officially full of sour grapes.

Google Android: How to fix Speech to Text “Couldn’t Connect” error

Posted in Android by commorancy on April 3, 2012

While this isn’t an overly common problem that I’ve found with Android, it is a problem that I have run into that has just baffled me.. until now.  Note, I am running Android 2.2 on my LG Optimus. To use the speech to text functionality (specifically voice search or voice keyboard input), you are required to download a package onto Android initially.  After downloading, I thought that I would be able to use this functionality all of the time. Let’s explore why this isn’t true.

Text to Speech Input Troubles

On the Android Keyboard (that is, the non-Swype keyboard input), there is a small microphone symbol.  Why this isn’t on the Swype keyboard is anyone’s guess?  If you click the little microphone, the feature activates and allows you to speak your text.  The phone is then supposed to convert your speech into text.  This is particularly handy while driving. Unfortunately, most of the time I always seemed to see the error ‘Couldn’t Connect’ when attempting using this functionality.  After all, I had downloaded the necessary packages.  At first I thought it had something to do with the microphone.  So, I plugged in different headsets and different bluetooth devices, but it still only randomly works.  Sometimes it works perfectly and other times not.  I also tried restarting my phone thinking there was some kind of service that was not working properly.  No luck with any of this.  For a while, I had given up on even using it.  However, I finally decided to get to the bottom of this issue.

This would seem to be a very handy feature while in the car.  And, it is, when it works.  In my car, however, most of the time it doesn’t work.  I couldn’t figure this one out at all. I kept thinking how lame it is that the one feature you absolutely need while driving is Speech to Text.  Yet, it is the single feature that is the most unreliable.  However, today I have finally realized why this functionality only intermittently works. It requires the Internet to function.

The Internet?

Why would this service need the internet?  Apparently, whatever data was downloaded only enables the feature, but it doesn’t actually do the speech to text conversion in the phone.  Apparently, the audio input is sent off to one of Google’s servers on the Internet (can you say, “Privacy Issue”) to be processed and the text sent back to the phone after conversion.  The phone doesn’t actually do the conversion.

My Rant

While I understand the audio processing needed to decode an audio file may not be capable within the phone (although, Siri seems to do a great job offline in the iPhone), the phone should at least have some offline capabilities.  However, the error message here is just absolutely stupid.  It doesn’t explain anything.  If the Internet is not available and this service requires it, the phone should pop up a message that either explains that no Internet is available or it should simply remove that functionality from the keyboard (grey it out) until the Internet is available.  Why try to allow use of this functionality when the Internet is not available?  This is both a confusing and stupid design.  Google, you need to fix this design fast.

So, you’re probably asking why it periodically worked in my car?  First, my phone is not Internet enabled.  Second, I refuse to pay $80 a month for a 3G data plan that’s half the speed of my cable service and offers half or less the amount of data at twice the price.  Instead, I pay for an ‘unlimited’ MiFi device that I don’t always turn on in my car.  Sometimes it’s on, sometimes it isn’t.  That explains why this functionality sometimes works and sometimes not.

I use the MiFi specifically because it works with all of my devices and is not locked to only one device.  It allows for more data throughput, due to the plan rate. It is also a non-contract prepaid service, so I don’t have to worry about being stuck in a hugely long contract.  If something better comes along, I just stop payment and walk away with no penalties.  Specifically, I use Virgin Mobile’s MiFi that is actually using the Sprint 3G Network. I digress.

How To Fix

If you’ve been searching all over the Internet trying to figure out why this functionality only sparsely works and how to fix it, this feature requires the Internet.  If your phone is not 24/7 Internet capable and you use WiFi for connectivity in select places, like myself, you will run into this problem when trying to use ‘Speech to Text’ from the Android keyboard while there is no Internet connectivity.  To fix this issue, you either need to subscribe to a phone dataplan so you have ‘Always On’ Internet service or carry a MiFi device around with you and turn it on when you want to use Speech to Text.  A hassle yes, but complain to Google as they are the ones that designed it to require the use of a Google server to decode the audio.

So, there you have it.  Problem solved, mostly.  At least, it’s solved for Android 2.2.  If your have a later version of Android, your mileage may vary.

[UPDATE: 2012-05-04]

My bad.  It appears that Siri does, in fact, require the Internet for Speech to Text conversion just like Android.  So, I guess this article applies to the iPhone as well.

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