Friday, 19 August 2011

How do I stop the poor framerate with the Samsung Galaxy S2 HD camera?

If you've been using the HD video recording facility of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and noticed some slightly poor frame-rates when watching the videos back you may be wondering what went wrong.

The simple explanation is "nothing" went wrong, it's just an issue with the lighting. When you want HD quality video you need to think about the lighting that the lens is getting. If you are experiencing frame-rate issues it's simply because the lighting isn't good enough and the "stalling" is effectively the camera lens "blinking".
To overcome this "blinking" effect you need to sort out the lighting one way or another. Sometimes it's not as easy as just flicking on a light switch though and the phone comes in with it's own option. You need to open up the settings menu on the camera screen then find the option entitled "Exposure value".  This option is basically the sort of thing that tells the lento compensate for poor lighting in the area.
The exposure value can be moved between -2 and +2 so make sure to move it up to at least +1 (though generally +2 will have the best effects). Although in normal or "good" lighting conditions this will lead to videos being "lit up" somewhat (to use laymans terms) in dark conditions this is the easiest solution to poor framerates.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

What are the best budget range android phones?

We know not everyone loves to be up to date and some people prefer phones that are a bit cheaper and and yet still hold their own. With so many Android phones available, we are going to look at the top 5 value for money phones that cost £150 or less on PAYG.

San Francisco
At about £105 new from Orange this is still one of the elite range of Android budget phones. The handset comes in either Grey or White though it's what you get for your money that's really good. Spec wise the phone looks very average as it's still running eclair and it's only got a 3MP camera though it comes into it's own with the ease of use and the smoothness of how it works. If you're an android enthusiast this isn't going to be pushing the android software to it's maximum though if you're a phone user who wants to dip your toes into android this is the perfect handset.

Samsung Galaxy Ace
This can be bought for around £150 new and is a very, very solid phone from a technical standpoint. With an 800mhz processor behind it and with an update to Gingerbread looking likely (if it's not already out when you read this) the phone really combines the specs of a much more expensive phone with a price that most can afford. The phone holds a very solid 5MP camera (which is now the sort of industry standard) a 3.5" screen and has many of the features of more expensive handsets.

Whilst it doesn't match up anywhere near bigger better brothers Galaxy S and Galaxy S2 it is still a very solid phone and one that combines the Android experience saving money and a solid handset.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini and Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro
At around £130 new the Xperia X10 Mini Pro (and for around £50 less the Xperia X10 Mini) are two budget androids with the Pro featuring a qwerty keyboard and come from Sony's growing Xperia range which look like being one of the growing forces on the market. Whilst the "Pro" version is the better phone it's hard to see if that £50 is actually worth the difference unless you really love the qwerty keyboards.

Whilst neither phone is going to blow your mind away neither is going to be a massive disappointment for people wanting an "advanced phone", if you are wanting a true smartphone experience however then you may feel a little bit disappointed. Though neither is a bad phone as such they're just "older" phones.

HTC Wildfire S
Easily the newest handset on this list it is as low as £149.99 from 3 (though you will need to buy a top up with it) and yet for the price you do get a huge amount for your money. The phone was the follow up to the original HTC Wildfire and yet has managed to be more than a simple follow up, it's been a huge step forward. The phones runs Gingerbread, it has a HVGA screen and although the processor (600mhz) and internal memory (512MB) are a bit disappointing compared to the high spec phones it really is a lot of phone for your money (and has an expandable memory slot).

The Wildfire S is a solid all rounder that provides a good android experience with a good solid phone and at a decent price. Though really if you have £150 to spend the fight between this and the Galaxy mentioned above really will be a tough battle, if you've only around £100 though get the San Francisco, you will not be disappointed.

Monday, 15 August 2011

How to take Panoramic photographs with the Samsung Galaxy S2

 With such a brilliant quality single shot camera the Samsung Galaxy S2 could be forgiven for just resting on it's laurels however the camera can also take fantastic panoramic photographs as long as you know how...and how a good enough view. Firstly you need to open the camera app and then clicking on the cog icon in the bottom left corner.

After clicking on the cog icon you will notice the camera settings menu which you can see on the screen shot to the left here. The option you need to select is "Shooting mode" which by default is set to "Single shot". You need to, rather predictably select the
"Panorama" option.

 After selecting Panorama you will notice the bottom of the screen changes slight and shows a number count out of 8. What you need to do is take a single picture and then follow the on screen guide lines as the phone automatically takes the following  shots to create a panoramic photograph of the area by piecing it together.

 This is an image taken of my back garden, the first image was taken of the tree on the far left and the final image just caught the side of the conservatory.

This image is another example of a panoramic shot.

I'd advise using these sorts of photographs for the times when you're in the countryside or at the beach and wanting to capture a long shot, though both of my examples were taken by turning on the spot and taking a more "circular" image as opposed to true panoramic photographs.

The secret tricks of Android live wallpapers

 In the past we've looked at setting different wallpapers on the Samsung Galaxy S2, with one of the options being "Live Wallpapers". Whilst some of the Live wallpapers are a bit...boring or have a technical function (think of the weather wallpapers) others have secret little things to do.

The "Galaxy" wallpaper (see the screen shot on the left) is one of the more boxing live wallpapers. Whilst it's normal effect is quite good the only "trick" here is that you can "tilt" the galaxy image by dragging your finger to a corner.

 The "Nexus" wallpaper creates lines where ever you touch the screen. Whilst this is almost the android version of a windows style screensaver it is fun to see that you do have an effect when your press on the screen.
The best of the secrets on the Live Wallpapers is on the "Microbes" screen (see left) in which pressing on the screen places some white dots. These dots act as "food" for the microbes who will run over them and then multiply so you can end up with a screen full of microbes like in the screenshot.

Whilst these are pointless little secrets it still just adds something, in fact the Microbes screen sort of gives you a mini game if your incredibly bored.

How to secure your Samsung Galaxy S2 with a screen lock password

So far on these guides we've looked at 2 of the 3 security lock screen methods on the Samsung Galaxy S2. We've looked at the "Pattern" lock screen and the "PIN" lock screen so it only makes sense to now look at the "Password" lock screen. This is almost certainly the most secure of the 3 possible forms of lock screen security.

Like the other lock screens you need to open up the Location and security option in

the settings screen. The location and security screen will contain an option called "Set up screen lock" and when clicked it will leave you with a list of 4 choices. The last choice will be "Password" so if you're wanting to set a password click on that one (for the others click the relating links in the opening paragraph).

After clicking on password you will see a screen like this one, and be asked to enter a password. Make sure you remember what your password is though the only rule seems to be that it has to be 4 or more characters long. After inputting your password once click on "Continue" in the bottom right hand corner and re-enter it to confirm the right password.

 After the password has been confirmed you should lock your screen and then see a lock screen like the screen shot on the left. When you come to this screen you need to enter your password to be able to use the phone. Due to the sheer number of possibilities this really is the most secure system of security you can use form the default screen lock menu.

If you ever feel like disabling the password you will need to unlock the phone, go on to the lock screen menu, re-enter the password and select the "None" option.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

How to get the most from the "Calculator" app on a Samsung Galaxy S2 (including a Scientific Calculator)

 Whilst you may or may not have bothered with the "Calculator" app on your Samsung Galaxy S2 it's always best to know that it's there and what it can do. Of course if you've flicked through all of the apps you'll have seen the plain calculator image to the right hand side, though there is a little bit more to the app than first meets the eye.

To find the extra features you need to press the phone's "Menu" button to open up the contextual menu at the bottom of the screen. You'll notice that you have 3 options "Clear history", "Scientific calculator" and "Text Size". Firstly we'll look at the text size option.

When you click on "Text size" you open up a option menu with "Small", "Medium" and "Large" these, pretty predictably change the size of the numbers on the calculator.

The much more useful option is "Scientific calculator" which is automatically displayed in Landscape mode (see the screen shot to the right) and includes plethora of scientific options we are used to seeing in school text books. The fact the phone includes all the trigonometry functions as well as "Pi." and the roots is a huge help to those studying maths at something like High School or GCSE level.

One final secret of the "Calculator" comes when you double click on the small arrow that sits between the numbers and the display (it's above the % icon on the Scientific calculator view) you can hide the numbers allowing you to see the "workings" of the equation you've done, something that is very handy in Calculator style tests.

How to use the "Places" Android app

When it comes to the under-rated Android apps maybe "Places" is the most under-rated and most often forgotten app. It's icon is a small innocuous looking red marker (see the screen shot to the right) and it looks, kinda dull and boring to be frankly honest though it's one of the most useful applications on Android handsets.

After clicking on the icon you will see a screen like the screen capture on the left hand side with a a search icon and a number of preset icons. If you are wanting to find for example a "Pub" or an "ATM" you can simply click on one of the icons on display; alternatively if your looking for something not given an icon you can type what you want in to the search bar.

For this example we are going to be searching for "Shopping centres" which I've typed into the search bar and done a search for. As you can see on the screen shot to the right a list of all the local shopping centres is provided. The list includes the destination, the name of the place and the distance from where you've been located (your location is picked up from GPS or the Wireless networks).

Where the app really comes into it's own is the fact you can get a list of local hotels or whatever is it, but that the app can quickly gather other useful information for you.
The screen shot here shows just some of the details you can find using the "Places" app and includes a contact number, and similar places. What is more useful however is that you can then get directions to the place.

In a practical sense this app could help your book a restaurant whilst on holiday or find a campsite at the last minute. However maybe at it's best it'll help you locate a specific building, for example an office block where you have an interview or a local ATM when you've run out of cash.

As with many of the "locational" applications (including "Maps" and "Navigation") this will use mobile internet and may run down the battery of your device slightly quicker than normal so just be aware of this.

How to back up a Samsung Galaxy S2 via Kies

 With the newer Samsung phones you may have been advised to download a program called Samsung Kies from the Samsung website. Kies is a program in which you do things such as move files files, edit contacts and most usefully back up your phone. This guide, although based on backing up a Samsung Galaxy S2 will work for most newer Samsung phones, and can be very useful if you ever end up with any issues.
 Firstly you'll of course need to download Kies on to your PC or Laptop and then connect your phone by a USB cable to your computer device. After doing that you should open Kies and you'll see a screen like the one above. From this screen you'll notice 4 tabs along the top, the one you need to select is "Back up/Restore" which is the tab on the extreme right. After pressing on that your screen should look a bitt like the image on the left.
 On the"Back up/Restore" tab you need to select what options you actually want to back up. For example your texts and call log, or you photographs. Just note before selecting your options that if you have all your photographs or music on your laptop/PC you may be better off not backing these up as they can take some considerable time to back up and it can be a waste if you already have the tracks and images stored.

After selecting everything you want to back up click on "Back up" (under the list of items) and you should see your screen look like the shot to the left. This is the programming backing up your phone and can take a while depending on what you have chosen to actually back up. As said above backing up a large collection of music files CAN take a very long time, whilst a few tracks will be nice and quick.
After all the information has been backed up you'll see the a screen like the one to the right with a ticks over the things that you backed up. To find the backed up settings they will be stored in the folder directory that you can see under the list of items (in the example case it was C\Users\Scott\Documents\SamsungKies\GT-19100) and can be used for restore purposes if you need them (i.e. after a factory reset).