Any.do Calendar

Any.do’s Cal looks really good!

Have you noticed that many calendar apps have two serious problems: they’re ugly, and they’re hard to use. That’s why I’m constantly on the lookout for better calendar experiences.

There are not many great calendar alternatives out there. Perhaps the situation is a bit different on the iOS platform then on Android? One exception in Play Store is Cal by Any.do. It was first available for iOS. It is both well-designed and simple to use.

If you have a todo in Any.do listed for the day, it’ll appear in your schedule beneath your planned events. You can also tie your Facebook account to Cal, and it will then display everybody’s birthday and let you send a text, email, or post on their wall in celebration of the occasion.

The best is that it seems to be that it also is an alternative frontend for the builtin calendar, cause I didn’t have to add accounts for Google Calendar or my Exchange account at work.

There is one small thing I dislike, it currently disables my phone’s power saving mode (Stamina).

 

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Things to consider when buying your next phone

I have a Sony Xperia Z and it is one of the best phones I’ve had. At least when talking about hardware. When it comes to software I will not recommend Sony. They rarely come with relevant software updates (like firmware updates) to their phones.

I was surprised when my phone notified me that an update to KitKat build 10.5.A.0.230 was available. Long overdue. This build came with newer versions of most of the Google apps and was supposed to use less power, giving your phone longer battery life.

Ever since the update users of Xperia Z, Xperia ZL, Xperia ZR and Xperia Tablet Z have been complaining about severe battery drain. One of the main culprits for the drain appears to be Google Play Services. Sony Mobile support has recognised this as being the main cause for the battery drain. In a post over on its support forums, Sony says that the problem lies with the latest version of Google Play Services (4.4.52). It goes on to provide a workaround to uninstall this latest update, whilst we wait for Google to provide a new version of Google Play Services.

We have investigated the issue with Google Play Services using a lot of battery and we have identified that the root cause of this is related to the latest version of Google Play Services (4.4.52)

When the bug hits in on my phone, I don’t get through office hours with battery left on the phone. I’ve kind of found my own workaround. My phone seems good as long as location services (GPS) are turned off. It seems to be when GPS is on and Google Play is pushing out software updates the bug gets activated. But I cannot confirm this.

All software have bugs, so I both expect and accept bugs. But it is different when a nasty bug doesn’t get fixed and that seems to be the case here. It is now more then 70 days since the new firmware got released and still no fix! Is 70 days acceptable? What if this would have been during a busier time at work (I’ve been on a long summer holiday), with lots of phone calls and meetings. I would then guaranteed missed both important calls and meetings.

I think it there is a bigger lesson to learn for Sony Mobile. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken, meaning don’t do your own things, but try to run as close to stock Android as possible.

The lesson I’ve learned is that my next phone will be an iPhone or run stock Android images as relased from Google.

 

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Microsoft: Why on Earth… ?

You should give Microsoft credit for never giving up. But their latest marketing campaign shouldn’t pass uncommented. It is hilarious to see how little Microsoft have understood. There is no successful hybrid PC. Please name one? I would go so far to say there is therefor not even such a form factor or market segment. I have a Surface, I bought it really cheap as it was a flop in Norway as in all markets. It represents one of Microsoft’s biggest loses through history and that should tell customers a lot.

I would replace the Surface with any ultraform laptop running Windows 7 or OS X. Most likely any Macbook with Retina, as they are the only laptops with a well implemented HiDPI screen! The two kinds of keyboards available for Surface are also jokes. I have the one meant for more writing (Pro Type Cover), and both the keys and the touchpad can’t be compared with the ones on Macbook Air! The Surface doesn’t invite to productivity and therefor fails as a PC/laptop and it is twice the weight of an iPad and doesn’t have the same quality apps. In other words it represents a double failure and not a win-win situation as the latest Microsoft ad tries to tell you.

Why am I so negative to Surface or hybrid PCs? Simply the fact that I still haven’t used a single PC with a good working touchscreen. I also don’t find it a good way to work, sitting in front of a laptop (a hybrid PC is just that) and constantly having to move my hands off the keyboard and on to the screen. And with a bad touchpad, also having to use a mouse. It interrupts work to much!

Another fact is that Apple for the first time saw a drop in sales of iPad in favor of their laptops. Why? People realize they are not as productive on tablets with their touchscreens and understand that tablets (and hybrid PCs) cannot replace laptops.

The important question when buying a computer today is, are you only to consume data from the Internet or are you also to use it for productivity (word processing, long emails, photo editing and more). If you are only to consume data, you could buy a tablet (iOS or Android). But if your answer is that you are to be productive, then you still need a laptop/ultrabook. It might run Windows 7 or OS X. Skip Windows 8, it doesn’t bring you anything you need.

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Houston – My Xperia Z has a Problem!

I bought a Sony Xperia Z phone just over a year ago. It’s been my best smartphone so far! But after its latest firmware update, I’ve not been to happy with it. As you can see from the screenshot above, Google Services tend to drain the battery. Today the phone had been out of the charging cradle for a little bit less then two hours, not used actively, just getting notifications in the background and Google Services has taken about 10% of the battery life!

This is not a constant problem, and I have not found out how and when this happens. But when it happens, I restart the phone and the problem can go away for 2-3 days before appearing again. I have reset the phone back to factory settings and also run it with no extra applications installed, but problem reoccurs.

Any one out there with the same experiences? Any one out there with a solution?

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House cleaning – My blog has a new look!

I’ve just changed theme on my blog. I got tired of the old look and also found that not many visited my portfolio of photos. The new look is fresh, simplistic and comes with better readability. I love it!

I’m currently working on replacing or resizing some of the featured images for the blog entries. I’ve also removed my Twitter feed from the page, as I’m not planning to be active on that social network. As a replacement for my Twitter and Flickr feeds, I’ve added a RSS feed for my photo stories over at Exposure. Links to my activity on other social networks can be found in the bottom of the page.

A new feature is also in place, Carousel. It will show any photo gallery that I add to a post or page in a full-screen photo browsing experience with comments and EXIF metadata.

I hope you enjoy the new look as much as I do… Enjoy!

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Tisza-tó on Exposure

A highlight of the summer was a long wanted trip to Lake Tisza (Hungarian: Tisza-tó), also known as Kisköre Reservoir, and this summer I finally got the chance. Tisza-Tó is the largest artificial lake in Hungary. As part of the ongoing Tisza River flood control project, the Tisza Dam was built in 1973. Its filling was finished in the 1990s, resulting a 127 km² lake. The lake is 27 km in length, with an average depth of 1.3 m and has lots of small islands.

By making this reservoir, a new local ecology with a diversity of birds, plants, and animals was created. How often is it that you get the chance to see something like that?

Well, I got the trip, tons of beautiful memories and some of them I will try to share with you through a new photo story on Exposure.

And some words from my sponsors…

Wait a minute, this trip was sponsored by me only, but would not have been possible without the help of Zoltán Pabar at Hungarobirds! He is truly a fantastic guide and I can highly recommend this and other trips with him. He has specialised in organising and leading wildlife watching tours for over the last 15 years. And what an amazing tour he put together for me. I’m so grateful!

Depending on the season you can photograph Great Bustards, Imperial Eagles, Red- footed Falcons, Saker Falcons, Rollers, Kingfishers, Lesser Gray Shrikes, Hoopoes, Barn Owls, Bee-eaters, various types of Herons and many more species, either at one of his hides or on a bird watching trip.

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Exposure – Great Story Telling With Photos

I’m trying out a photo service called Exposure. What differs it from other photo services like Flickr and 500px, is that Exposure focuses on stories, meaning sets of photos.

The first that stroke me was that Exposure is the most stylish service out there (also beautifully presented on mobile phones), and as I started preparing my first story I found it to be very simple to use, with gallery upload and creation handled through my preferred desktop web browser. Exposure is a fantastic option for the many photographers out there still using the ageing Blogger service. Exposure is free to try with a three post limit. There are two paid versions, I chose the cheapest one, Plus, costing US $ 5 per month, with unlimited posting, password protection and RSS support. The more expensive, Pro, costing US $ 9 per month, in addition gives you custom domain and Google Analytics support.

Your stories (albums) can be tagged to Exposure’s predefined categories, like Nature, Food & Drink, Sports and Travel.

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The most beautiful albums get listed in the Exposure Staff Edit section. And guess what? My first post got picked out and promoted. Thank You so much.

I will be posting more stories on Exposure through out the summer, so stay tuned.

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The colourful Kingfisher

Last week I visited Belgium for the first time. A friend invited me down to photograph kingfishers. He called me a few days before the eggs were about the hatch, and I managed to find a long weekend where I could take days off from work. Tickets were not cheap buying them only days before departure. I ended up flying Ryanair and had luckily no problems keeping the weight limit of 10+15 kg! It was a late evening flight and I got picked up at the Charleroi airport.

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Without me knowing we crossed more or less the whole Belgium that night, ending up in a small village close to Roselare. I got in bed 01:30, just to get a 2,5 h power nap! At 04:00 we got up to prepare a small breakfast and food for the day, minutes afterwards we were in the car in the direction Brügge. Our goal was to be the first to get to a hide in the Warandeputten Nature Reserve. And yes, we were the first to enter the hide both this and the following morning. The two hides in Warandeputten are free to the public and operated as first in, first served. The park guard popped by both days I stayed there, and repetitive told us that none of the hides were built for bird photography, but were actively used by bird watchers. So true, the hide we were sitting in, had space for 10 people, but only two spaces were interesting and that were the ones with a clear view on to the stick were the Kingfishers landed on their way to and from their nest.

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Normally the hide would be full already before it got light. But this year was different. The Kingfishers were for an unknown reason not successful and none of the eggs hatched. So me and my friend were most of the time alone in the hide, and got plenty of opportunities to photograph the Kingfishers.

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The Warandeputten Nature Reserve

The nature reserve is located on the Ghent-Bruges channel. It is a very small eco system that receives only rain and groundwater, with a very rich marine life including green frogs, dragonflies and damselflies. For birds that are all tasty snacks and with some luck you can see both Moorhen, Coot, Mallard and Blue Heron here, but from time to time also many other water and marsh birds. The absolute superstar in this nature reserve is the kingfisher, and people come from all over Belgium to see it.

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I did a half hour walk and had then walked through more or less the whole park. It is a swamp forest combined with flower-rich grasslands. Through the swamps you are only allowed to walk on the paths. It was fun to see such a small eco system full of life, squeezed in between roads, railways and channels. The whole thing felt only to be a few football fields big. But I guess that is Belgium trying to take care of the small green spots they have left.

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The Kingfisher

Doing bird photography as a hobby, I got to do my homework as well and learn a little bit about the birds that I photograph. There are many types of Kingfishers, but in Europe we only have the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). I had long wanted to photograph this colourful, little bird. It isn’t much bigger than a sparrow and has azure-blue upper parts, orange underparts and a long bill.

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The Kingfisher is actually quite difficult to photograph, as a grown up is only about 16 centimetres long with a wingspan of 25 cm  and weighs 34–46 grams. The bird gets really small when you are sitting in a hide up to 15 meters away! So as we entered the hide, we realised that I would not be able to photograph the bird with my 120-400mm lens. So lucky me, I was to photograph with a 600mm for the first, and not only that, I was also to use 1.4 and 2.0 extenders.

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But it gets even worse, sitting with such a large lens it doesn’t help that the flight of the Kingfisher is fast, direct and usually low over water. The short rounded wings whirr rapidly, and a bird flying away shows an electric-blue “flash” down its back. But at least I managed to get a few very good photos of the Kingfisher as it was about to land.

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The Kingfishers can be found in most of Europe, occasionally also in Southern Norway. It is resident in areas where the climate is mild year-round, but must migrate after breeding from regions with prolonged freezing conditions in winter. Most birds winter within the southern parts of the breeding range, but smaller numbers cross the Mediterranean into Africa. It is for instance a common bird in Hungary, just that I have never seen it there so far.

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Common Kingfishers are highly territorial; since they must eat around 60% of their body weight each day, it is essential to have control of a suitable stretch of river. If another kingfisher enters its territory, both birds display from perches, and fights may occur, where a bird will grab the other’s beak and try to hold it under water. Pairs form in the autumn but each bird retains a separate territory, generally at least 1 km long, but up to 3.5 km and territories are not merged until the spring.

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My Kingfisher photos can also be seen at Exposure and Flickr.

 

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