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Tech Review: A Week with Android Wear

NateHarris, Guest Writer

Oct. 15 is a big day for fans of the Android operating system and phone lineage. Android L, the newest version of the operating system that was unveiled at Google I/O in June, was officially named “Android 5.0 Lollipop,” sticking to the theme of naming each successive operating system after a confection in alphabetical order. The operating system is set to be pushed out on Friday to the Nexus line of devices first, with other Android devices following over the upcoming months.

Oct. 15 also marks a week after I finally received my Android Wear device, and in that time I have learned a thing or two. Android Wear, for those who do not know, is an extension of the Android operating system running on watches resembling small smartphones, therefore dubbed “smartwatches.” Though Pebble watches have been out for a while, and Apple announced over the summer plans to launch a smartwatch in 2015, Android Wear was the first to take on the concept of a watch being more than a watch in full force. The first smartwatch hit the market last year with the Samsung Gear, though it did not run Android Wear software, and its marketability, though eye-catching, did not fare too well. Since then, a few more iterations of the smartwatch have come out, with “the Big Three” consisting of the LG G Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Gear Live (both square faced), and the Moto 360 by Motorola, which has a round face. I, like a lot of people looking at this technology, decided to go all out and combine fashion with form and went with the Moto 360. This added about two weeks to my wait, as, while I could walk into any Best Buy and pick up one of the other watches off the shelf, the Moto 360 was sold out everywhere, including at stores, on Google Play and on Motorola’s website.

(courtesy Nate Harris)
(courtesy Nate Harris)

So let me start with the design. Motorola designers and engineers attest to their idea that when designing the watch, that it look like a watch first and foremost. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a square face, but in my opinion, if clocks are round, a watch should be round. Motorola also teamed up with a Chicago leather manufacturer, offering black and grey leather straps for the watch out of the box (Motorola recently began offering metal linked straps as well). The leather feels great and adds to the style. It feels integrated with the product, as opposed to just serving a purpose like the plastic and rubber straps on the other two watches. The device itself is only 1.7 inches in diameter, but while some other reviewers argue that it is too big or too small, with my wrist, the size is just right. Some complain that it is too thick, but in comparison to the other smartwatches, it is only two millimeters thicker, and compared to a regular round watch, the difference is basically inconsequential.

(courtesy Nate Harris)
(courtesy Nate Harris)

The device has only one button on it, placed on the right side where a dial would be on a wind-up watch, and this button serves no other purpose than to turn the screen and device on and off. The Moto 360 does not have a speaker (unlike the other two), so there is a drawback when making phone calls (yes, you can make phone calls using the watch), but, as one main selling point of these smartwatches seems to be a new-found dedication to fitness, all the watches feature some sort of heart rate monitor and pedometer. As far as I’ve used it, it works quite nicely, though finding my heart rate does seem to take a bit of time (perhaps it is just me). The Moto 360 is not completely round; a small cutout at the bottom of the screen is black, but this is to make room for the ambient light sensor and display driver, a feature special to the Moto 360 that allows the screen to adjust its brightness according to the amount of available light around it. The screen also goes dim after a timeout period, and turns back on by the push of the button or by moving the watch in a sweeping motion that simulates raising your wrist up to your face. The Moto 360 seems to have only two major negative criticisms by reviewers, and those are its battery life and its processor. As far as battery life, it depends on what you use it for. Once I stopped touching it every two minutes, the battery lasted me an entire workday (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.). An update to the operating system significantly rectified this issue, though. And while the battery does drain a little faster than one might prefer, the device charges (through an inductive charger, no external ports or USB) from dead to one hundred percent in a little over an hour and a half. The other issue is the processor. Motorola put so much effort into the design, yet copped out for three-year old processor chips. I do not see any real side-effects from this decision, though it does seem to lag a bit if put under more than an average amount of stress.

(courtesy Nate Harris)
(courtesy Nate Harris)

Now to how the device actually works. These smartwatches are not phones. They are accessories that connect to an Android phone through Bluetooth. The first function of the watch is, of course, telling the time. All the watches come with pre-installed watch faces that can be switched out at will, and many developers are releasing more watch faces that can easily be used on the device. The watch syncs with the phone, and any app downloaded on the phone that works on Android Wear appears on the watch (though it is stored on the phone). Android Wear displays all notifications from the phone on its screen, as well as any cards in Google Now. Many of these notifications can be interacted with on the watch, though all of them will open on the phone. However, one app I have right now is a Wear browser, which allows someone to share a URL from the browser on their phone and view it on the watch (a miniature version of the websites’s mobile view). The watch is mostly a Google Now watch. Saying “OK Google” or just tapping on the screen will bring up Google. There is a keyboard on the phone (at least on the browser, there is), but for Google, it is all voice. Yeah, you look like weird walking down the street talking to your wrist, but those people around you are just behind the times. As for accuracy, unless there is really loud ambient noise, Google will understand what you said virtually every time. This is helpful, because the texting function (yes, you can text from your watch) is also voice-operated.

(courtesy Nate Harris)
(courtesy Nate Harris)

From the Google screen, a swipe up will allow access to setting and apps. Since Android Wear is fairly new, there is not too much out there, but it is really interesting to see the ingenuity that developers are having with this new technology. The Moto 360 was the last of the big three to come out, so a lot of apps are optimized for square screens, but many developers are working hard to bring full function to the round screen. I have some games (2048 and a Rubik’s Cube), some functionality apps (Calculator, a third-party Twitter beta app, a flashlight) and some accessibility apps (remotely control the volume or music playback on my phone, remotely control my camera, record audio). The app market is increasing exponentially daily, and it should not be long before big-name apps are available in some function on Wear (iHeartRadio, Tinder and FlyDelta have already taken advantage of the device).

Overall, the device is a nifty little thing. The interface is clean and easy to use, and the round design of the Moto 360 specifically makes it feel like it is a watch. I have had more than a few people give me a weird look as I respond to a text in public, but many of those people end up gawking over it when I show them that I am not crazy, but instead “embracing the future.” The functionality of the watch is a little underdone, but this is a brand new thing and so the full power and extent of its use is still being delved into right now.

Now comes the ultimate question: Is it worth it? I guess I did not say the price in the intro, my bad. The LG G Watch is $229, but Best Buy has been slashing its price to $159. The Samsung Gear Live is $199. The Moto 360 is $249. Now is it worth it? Well, if you are an iPhone person, you can leave now. You too Windows Phone people. Now the non-smartphone people. Now anyone with an Android device older than a year and a half. Okay, first off, you need Android 4.3 and above. Then you need to use Google a lot (as in multiple times a day. Multiple times an hour, even better). Now you need money, and lots of it. Now you need to be able to deal with imperfection, but at the same time experiment, try things out, be a beta tester and respond back to developers with constructive criticism and advice. This is not an everyday user device, not yet. In a few months it may be. The way I see it, as many see it, it is a niche product, for now. Right now, not many people know about it, and even fewer have it, so it is “weird.” The word “smartwatch” keeps showing up as misspelled, that is how unknown it is. Soon more people will know about it, but still few people will have it, and it will be “hipster.” Eventually, everyone will know about it, and everyone will have it, and it will be “mainstream.” Personally, I love being at the forefront rather than in the middle of the pack, being a leader rather than a follower.

So is it worth it? As soon as you have it, as soon as you strap it to your wrist, you will find worth in it somewhere. So is it worth it? Better question is, what is it worth to you?

 

(Cover photo courtesy Nate Harris)

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Individual responsible for UGA threat identified, arrested

Less than nine hours after the events today at the University of Georgia began, the investigation into a threat posted on social media that forced an evacuation of the Miller Learning Center has concluded in an arrest.

In a report released by the University of Georgia Police Department, 19-year-old Ariel Omar Arias, a student at UGA from Liburn, Ga., was identified as responsible for disseminating the threat through social media. The police department has yet to confirm the exact wording of the threat or its source, though many student believe that it originated on the anonymous posting app Yik Yak.

Campus police were able to identify the culprit “through the investigation of a number of leads and with the cooperation and assistance of personnel associated with the social media outlet involved and cellular service providers.”

Arias admitted that he posted the threat in an interview, insisting that it was “the result of an immature prank and that he had no motive to follow through with any acts of violence.” Several reports issued to the police department regarding the threat mentioned the threat of fire arms.

Arias has been arrested on warrants charging him with two felony counts of terroristic threats and has been transported to the Clarke County Jail. Arias has also received an interim suspension from the University of Georgia.

 

(cover photo courtesy John Roark via The Red and Black)

UGA Police chief holds press conference in response to campus threat

UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson held a press conference at 2 p.m. to answer questions regarding the events that unfolded early today.

Inside Footage of Students evacuating the MLC
Inside Footage of Students evacuating the MLC (click to play)

A threat on social media prompted the evacuation of the Miller Learning Center on the University of Georgia’s campus around noon Friday. Campus police contacted students via UGA Alert Emergency Notification System emails, phone calls and text messages to stay away from the center, known as the MLC, until an all-clear was issued. At 1:12 p.m., an all-clear was announced and students were allowed to return to normal activities.

Chief Williamson would not reveal details regarding the exact wording of the threat or its source, though rumor among students say that it originated on the anonymous posting app Yik Yak. Williamson did confirm that the unspecified social media host is working with officials.

Williamson said an investigation is actively ongoing, and that while no violence occurred, all threats are taken seriously.

According to a media release issued by the University of Georgia Police Department, at approximately 11:35 a.m., “several reports from individuals that a threat of violence directed towards the area of the Miller Learning Center around noon had been disseminated through a social media outlet”. The threat was initially perceived as credible. Alerts were sent out to all students to avoid the area, as police evacuated the MLC and searched the building.

Williamson did comment that some reports mentioned the threat of the use of firearms, and that the threat was directed at the student body in general. The police are actively working with law enforcement and following leads, but no arrests have been made.

 

(cover photo courtesy Grady NewSource via Twitter)

BREAKING NEWS: ‘Threat of violence’ in UGA Learning Center

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(courtesy Jamie Gottlieb via Twitter)

The University of Georgia Campus Police evacuated the Miller Learning Center on the university’s campus Friday afternoon after a ‘threat of violence’ was posted via social media.

It is speculated that the threat was posted anonymous app Yik Yak, saying “If you want to live, don’t be at the MLC at 12:15.”

Police quickly dispatched to the building, evacuating students and issuing warning of caution via text messages, emails phone calls to all students.

Police stated they do not believe the threat to be credible.

UPDATE:

At 12:50, a university spokesperson stated that all classes in the Miller Learning Center are cancelled for the remainder of the day.

University police confirmed that the threat was still active, though no violence had occurred.

UPDATE:

At 1:10, campus police announced an all-clear, informing students to “resume all normal activities.”

 

(cover photo courtesy Savannah Levins via 11Alive)

The World is Your Oyster

NateHarris, Guest Writer

So this is college.

Today begins my fourth week of classes, and as such, the stress can finally kick in. Tests coming up, some tests already passing. Passing in the sense that they already occurred; whether or not they are passing in the sense of grades is dependent now solely on whether or not some higher being can forgive my sin of gluttony. I’m sorry, but you try living where there is literally an all-you-can-eat buffet twenty-four hours a day and not feel like you’ve delved into the world of obesity stock footage for 20/20. Freshman fifteen, more like freshman forty. But I digress.

If college has taught me one thing over the past near-month, it would be that there is never just one thing. The transition from elementary school to middle school introduces lockers and slightly more self-discipline. The transition to high school allowed you to eat outside and introduced the concept of school spirit. In college, you don’t have to go to class if you don’t want to (though I highly recommend you do, and if you don’t, you’ll learn…). The possibilities are nearly endless, the only thing limiting you being Georgia State Law. It’s a paid experience, and you decide what you experience.

Every day I discover something new that I never knew I had paid for with tuition. I went to the gym yesterday. Imagine anything you could want to do, and they have it in the athletic center. Full gym membership, paid for by student fees. We have a movie theater. We have ballroom dancing classes. We have students passionate about what they do, be it in their major or in the community. We have people who want to play music, and we have people who want to listen to that music. We have people who want to make the world a better place, be it through civil rights, environmental activism, helping the needy communities around us or bringing awareness to life-threatening diseases in other countries around the world. We have Athens. We have jocks, hipsters, nerds. We have stereotypes, we have cliques, but more importantly, we have the opportunity to open our eyes to the real world around us. “The world is our oyster.” Well, I for one am about to crack that baby open and do something with my life.

The key to college is to get involved, get out of your comfort zone. Do not sit in your room all day. Focus on classes, but when you have free time, let it be FREE time. Make friends, make enemies, explore the world around you, try something new. Go to a football game. Pull an all-nighter. Be the first at a dining hall. I did all of those at the same time. Be free, live life, and have fun.

It is a feeling like no other.

Go Dawgs.

 

(cover photo courtesy Nate Harris)

And So It Begins…

NateHarris, Guest Writer

So this is college.

I’m sitting in the gardens, my rear end comfortably supported by a small rustic-looking metal bench facing a small brick building. The roar of buses and cars softly echoes from the street to my left, the sight of them blocked by various trees and bushes. The squeaky chirp of a bird complements the traffic, rhythmically sounding off on my right. This place is relaxing. Nobody’s come by since the next round of classes started a few minutes ago, and I’m alone here with my thoughts and a keyboard on my lap.

So this is college.

The hustle of students of various shapes, sizes, ethnicity, gender, age and major trickle past me, the undisturbing chaos similar to salmon swimming upstream. I feel free, independent and alone, and yet at the same time, included, part of a greater whole collectively. I feel like I matter.

I’ve only had one class so far, so I won’t bore you with the details of English 1060H. I ate breakfast at the new dining hall. I got up without having my mom have to remind me to get up. I went to class. I bought a textbook. I did it all by myself. I’m not sure who’s keeping score, but I’m pretty sure I deserve some major bonus points for that.

So this is college.

I feel like I belong here.

I feel like I’m free.

I feel like this is a place I could call “home.”

I feel happy.

 

(cover photo courtesy The Red and Black)

Concert Review: Alice Cooper and Mötley Crüe

NateHarris, Guest Writer

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Alice Cooper’s performance resembles a corny and underfunded middle school production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” (courtesy Gillian Daniels)

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a huge fan of either group, but I know both of them and know and listen to some of their songs.

So after some unknown band trying to be the next Mötley Crüe finally got off the stage at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Aug. 16, the sold out crowd of true 80’s rock fans, sporting fake big hair and trying to squeeze into their leather pants one last time, and their spouses making sure they stopped after the sixth beer, cheered as Alice Cooper took the stage. I don’t know many Alice Cooper songs, but judging by the crowd’s reaction and ability to sing along while mildly inebriated leads me to believe that he spanned many of the big hits of his long career. As far as performances go, as I have been told, most of Alice Cooper’s concerts go the same way as this one, mainly resembling a corny and underfunded middle school production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Still, for sixty-six years old, Alice Cooper was still able to walk back and forth across the stage with his usual swagger, wielding a different prop and/or outfit for every one of his songs, ranging from a cane to a boa constrictor to a fencing saber which he used to pop large white balloons that the audience tossed around. Overall though, it wasn’t a bad warm-up to what I would later discover is the true Mötley Crüe.

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Mars shows off his true skills on his instrument with a long and loud solo. (courtesy Gillian Daniels)

Finally, the moment had arrived. The lights at the amphitheatre went dim, and the speakers blared “All bad things must come to an end” repeatedly, and then, in a moment of three-sense titillation, my eyes, ears and nose were swarmed with the essence of Mötley Crüe: blinding strobe light, screeching guitar riffs and pulsing drum and the odor of kerosene and cigarette smoke. The crowd went crazy as the music and the band that fueled their high school years  blasted through the speakers. From then on out, it was drums and guitars and flames and lights and fireworks and screaming and, well,  Mötley Crüe. It wasn’t all music, though. Bassist Nikki Sixx took a moment halfway through the concert to sit everyone down and explain the origin of the group, introducing drummer Tommy Lee, guitarist Mick Mars and lead singer Vince Neil one-by-one before launching right into another song. Later in the show, Mars showed off his true skills on his instrument with a long and loud solo.

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The band covers many of their big hits, including “Dr. Feelgood,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” and “Girls Girls Girls.” (courtesy Gillian Daniels)

Seeing as this is the band’s final tour, they seemed to pull out all the stops. There sadly wasn’t a drum roller coaster, but plenty of pyrotechnics, guitar flame throwers, pentagrams and girls dancing around. They covered many of their big hits, including “Dr. Feelgood,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” and “Girls Girls Girls.” They went out on “Kickstart My Heart” with enough light to illuminate the bottom of the ocean and enough flame to launch a space shuttle into orbit. And then, after the four members wrapped their arms over each other’s shoulders center stage and took a bow, they walked off stage, and the lights faded. The crowd was left stunned because, through all the songs, they group had not played “Home Sweet Home.” Half the crowd was upset while the other half wondered how long they were going to make us wait.

The band performs "Home Sweet Home" raised on a platform above the audience. (courtesy Gillian Daniels)
The band performs “Home Sweet Home” raised on a platform above the audience. (courtesy Gillian Daniels)

Sure enough, after about three minutes, the band came out into the audience with flashlights beaming out among the smoke. They hopped up on a small platform in the middle of the crowd and, as the soft notes of the song echoed from the grand piano out among the crowd, the platform rose high in the air. The crowd sang along in chorus, and when the platform lowered back down, and the final note faded away, it was over. Mötley Crüe was gone.

“I thought the concert was amazing, and they are great performers always. It was better than their last concert because they played their most popular songs and I knew them all. I’m upset that they are retiring; I’ve listened to them my whole life. I’ll still always love and enjoy their music,” says Gillian Daniels (SR).

Overall, the concert was as pure a heavy rock concert as one could hope, and an amazing send off to a band that, for thirty-four years, wanted nothing more than to fight conformity and keep true rock alive.

(cover photo courtesy Gillian Daniels)