Weekly output: Web-radio royalties, Nexus 7 bricked

This week had me wearing badges for four different events: 1776’s Challenge Festival, the Ashoka Future Forum, Mashable’s Digital Beltway, and Smithsonian Magazine’s “The Future Is Here” festival (the last of which gave me the chance to see a hoverboard in action). Is “conferenceful” a word? Maybe it should be.

5/12/2015: Why Pandora Pays Much More for the Music You Hear Than Radio Stations, Yahoo Tech

I returned to the subject of Web-radio royalties for the first time in a few years. It’s maddening that I’ve been writing about this situation since 2002–as in, about half of my post-college life–and the basic unfairness of shafting Webcasters with much higher royalty rates than other forms of radio hasn’t changed in all that time.

USAT Nexus 7 bricked column5/17/2015: Sour Lollipop update bricks some Nexus 7 tablets, USA Today

A journalist pal of mine e-mailed me last month to ask if I’d heard anything about 2013-model Nexus 7 tablets getting bricked by Google’s Lollipop update to Android. I had not, but a little research revealed that my friend was not alone in running into this issue–and that Google and Asus were being remarkably vague and unhelpful about fixing this problem.

Nexus 4 update: a little more life with Lollipop

One of the key reasons why I bought my Nexus 4 a little over two years ago was knowing that I wouldn’t have to wait for Google’s software updates. And then I waited weeks to install Google’s Android 5.0 Lollipop update after its first appearance on my phone in late November–the slight risk of the update bricking my phone was not something I wished to run during the combined insanity of the holidays and CES.

Nexus 4 with LollipopI should have waited longer. That 5.0 release and the subsequent 5.0.1 update exhibited a freakish and annoying bug: I could hear the other person in a phone call, but they couldn’t hear me.

The workaround suggested in a reddit thread about changing a developer-level setting made the problem go away most of the time, and it’s yet to resurface in Android 5.1. But I’m still completely puzzled as to how a flaw this widespread could have escaped QA testing

I don’t regret installing this update overall, though–not least since Google does appear to have fixed the problem it created.

The best feature so far has been battery life that seems notably longer than under Android 4.4. And seeing a current estimate of how many more hours the phone’s good for–combined with having its Battery Saver option prolong its runtime for a good hour or so–leaves me feeling a little more in control of this Nexus 4’s useful time away from a charger.

After that I’d rank the updated Quick Settings panel you access by swiping down from the top of the screen. This puts my phone’s hotspot feature one tap away–before, it was multiple levels deep in the Settings app–and finally adds the flashlight feature that previously required adding somebody else’s app.

Android Lollipop Quick SettingsThe rest of the Material Design interface Google made so much of a big deal about at last year’s I/O developer conference hasn’t made as much of a difference as I expected. I’ve quickly gotten used to the idea that different apps will turn the menu bar different colors–except when some of these hues get a little too close to Battery Saver’s bright orange.

And I feel like I can zip through open apps much faster in Lollipop’s recent-apps list, or at least I do since telling Android to show Chrome only once in this list instead of including a preview of every page open in that browser.

I wish I could be more enthusiastic about Smart Lock, the option to bypass the lock screen based on your phone’s proximity to a trusted component of one sort or another. But so far, I’ve only set it to trust my desktop computer via Bluetooth–and because that iMac can be iffy about connecting automatically to the phone, I can’t count on this working.

I should explore the other unlock options available. For instance, I happen to have a spare NFC tag or two around that I could stick in our car’s dashboard for an automatic unlock when I tap the phone to it. But haven’t gotten around to that yet.

The important bit about this update is this: Lollipop has breathed a little more life into a two-year-old phone. And that, in turn, means I don’t yet have to choose between continuing with the Nexus line in the form of the unacceptably huge Nexus 6 or going with another Android phone or even (it could happen…) switching to an iPhone.