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The INQUIRER Android Experiment: Episode three

How nearly admitting defeat can make you stronger, plus a musical interlude
Thu Jan 09 2014, 16:11

I CAME UP with a joke today.

Q: What will we eat if Android wins the mobile operating system war?

A: Blackberry and Apple Crumble.

I never said it was a good joke. But after the day I've had, even a lame pun is better than nothing.

Monday, 6 January

At this point, I am going to let you into a little secret. I nearly caved today. I was sitting in a room with four Windows machines, all switched off. I'd spent five hours - yes, five - trying to post an article.

During that time, I fought against devices rebooting, apps that crashed for no apparent reason but always at the crucial moment, and a cut and paste mechanism that seems to have been written by the cast of Sesame Street on ritalin.

It is safe to say that, for a journalist on a successful tech website, using Android exclusively is, while not impossible, certainly not convenient. It's a little like a holiday in North Korea. It can be done, but it probably isn't very relaxing and you might not get out of it in one piece.

I'm an advocate for Android due to its open ecosystem. But that can also be its undoing. There is often inconsistency between apps that means that they behave differently than Android design guidelines, thus reducing their capacity for intuitive use.

In addition, because many apps come from back bedroom developers, they are prone to instability. There isn't a huge community of bug testers to check every possible eventuality, and you can be sure that the one they haven't tested will be the one you end up running into and finding out about the hard way.

The various office apps in Android are all well intentioned, but none of them seem to be completely finished yet. Some don't offer word counts. Some don't save in the format you need. Some are just downright fiddly. Worst is that several of them crash as soon as you minimise the window, forcing you to start again. Between them, there are the makings of a good app. If all the best bits from the different packages were combined, you might have something really special.

But the experiment is about living with Android, not just working with it, and so to crumble now would be to cave over a small part of a large project. I do have a "business critical" getout clause that I can invoke, allowing me to work using Windows if I find it is affecting my job or my co-workers, however I haven't caved yet.

So I sought workarounds. The workaround I found involved doing something I've resisted doing for years. I've started writing my articles in HTML, fully coded and ready for the website.

It makes perfect sense - one copy and paste into our CMS and it's ready to go. It's something I will keep doing after this month is over. It's true what they say - sometimes crisis leads to opportunity.

Tuesday, 7 January

With that in mind, and on a lighter note, I'm delighted to present the results of my latest challenge. I was asked if I could create a piece of music and upload it to Soundcloud using Android. And here is the result below. It's called "Theme From Project Android".

I created it in around 90 minutes using Magix's Music Maker Jam (free with in-app purchases) and uploaded it using the old version of the Soundcloud website. The new version of the website and indeed the Soundcloud app (free) would not let me upload, only record from the microphone, and apparently Android users don't need to upload files they've already made. Another little example of the long way we have to go.

Please don't be too critical. I've never written any music before, certainly never on a computer, and besides, I've had a bad day.

Challenge Chris to perform tasks using Android apps and hardware alone. Comment below or tweet to @INQ with the hashtag #INQAndroid. µ


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