Sunday, November 24, 2013

Everything Write (and Wrong) with Swype

An iPhone 4 has been my primary phone for four years. For a few short months I had a wonderful Dell Steak and grew to love Android. Vale my cherished Dell Steak: 'twas not the smashed screen that did you in, but the hot sweet coffee I bathed you in (and the front passenger seat of my car) while driving to a repair shop. I can honestly say that Swype is one of the main reasons I wanted to come back to Android. And now I have.

Killer features

  • Sliding Swyping your finger across the keyboard to type out words is just so damn good!
  • There are Swype shortcuts to select all, copy and paste - the latter two being the king of all features below slide typing.
  • Tap the Swype key to select the word your cursor is on.
  • Tap the shift key while you have a word selected to change the case of the word (but if you were just typing then tapped the Swype key then tapped shift key this doesn't work: you have to re-tap the word, tap Swype, then tap shift).
  • Swype gesture to hide the keyboard.
  • Swype gesture to activate cursor mode with functions for going back/forwards/up/down/select all/copy/paste.
  • Autocorrect is right most half of the time.

Rage inducing flaws

  • Speech to text (powered by Dragon Dictation) is terrible, unusable. It is supposed to learn but I haven't seen it learn anything and support through the forums is non existent: one, two, three posts on this revealing nothing helpful at all.
  • I have yet to see a single reply from devs that solves or even usefully addresses any of flaws I am laying out here. So many unanswered posts.
  • Swype to write is slow. In this mode, you can write out a single word, one individual letter at a time. Even though it (mostly) interprets the space gesture correctly, writing multiple words separated by space just outputs one hopelessly wrong word. It doesn't recognise handwriting. (Forum post on how bad Swype Writing is.)
  • No undo. The A.I. Type keyboard has undo, as do some apps like DroidEdit.
  • No access to recent clipboard entries. The Samsung Galaxy stock keyboard has this, so it is possible.
  • Enter key is not always visible (such as in Google Hangouts). Needs to have an option to override this. (Workaround is to switch to write mode, then switch to numbers mode and it usually recognises the gesture for new line insert, but it's clunky).
  • I still find myself typing out many hilarious or confusing autocorrect failures if I don't double check every word.
  • You can only Swype one word at a time - the Galaxy stock keyboard lets you swipe multiple words if you swipe to the space bar in between.


Swype is a lot faster than thumb/two finger typing - I never want to go back to just being able to tap letters (like you have to with iOS). Swype is such an efficient mechanism, allowing you to use one finger to fluidly output words. If you know how to touch type, you will be even faster still since you will know the layout of your keyboard. You still need to be very careful and double check your output.

I find Swyping to be just a little bit faster than using handwriting recognition keyboards (like the stock Samsung keyboard). Having said that, handwriting on the Samsung Stock keyboard is amazing - it will cope with your worst doctor writing!

However, Swyping is is still much slower than typing if you know how to touch type. This means that when I am in a meeting and need to take notes, I will still pull out my iPad and use a bluetooth keyboard (and use the outstanding iThoughts mind mapping app), rather than use my new and shiny Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Note that Swype is not the only keyboard to offer typing by sliding your finger over a virtual keyboard. The Samsung stock keyboard, the Google stock keyboard and Swiftkey are three alternatives I am aware of. However, the core mechanic is slightly different in each, and the combination of the other killer features had meant that Swype is still my go-to Android keyboard.

This review is for Swype version on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (not rooted) running Android 4.3.

4 out of 5. Swype is a must for your Android.

Chrome to mobile device with offline storage and search

I am reading the Walking Dead comics and need help keeping the character names straight in my head. They are listed nicely on this page with pictures and names, which is great:

So I figured there are plenty of mechanisms available to help me out here. What I want is:

  1. A way to save the page from Chrome on my PC.
  2. A way to view the page on my iOS or Android device.
  3. Offline storage of this page on my iOS and Android device.
  4. The ability to search the stored page to find the character name I am looking for and view the picture.

In the last three six frustrating hours, this is what I have found..

Get Pocket (was Read It Later)

  1. Has Chrome extension, iOS and Android client.
  2. Allows offline access on mobile devices.
  3. No full text search (or here).


  1. Has Chrome extension, iOS and Android client.
  2. Offline access on mobile devices needs paid account. $5.50 per month is too much for a Premium account considering I have no other use-cases for this at all.
  3. Even when I do clip my page, it displays badly, with text being hidden behind the images.
  4. The Android client doesn't seem to offer full text search that shows matched text within a clipped page.


  1. Has Chrome extension, iOS and Android client.
  2. Can't see my articles on Android or iOS.. so don't know anything more (have been refreshing the collection frequently, nothing showing at all). Edit: they showed up hours later.
  3. There is no full text search.


  1. Has Chrome extension, iOS and Android client.
  2. It ripped out all the text from my page, leaving this article useless!
  3. No full text search.

Wikipanion Plus for iPad

Use it save a different page (that is on the Walking Dead Wiki):

  1. No Chrome extension, or Android client. Open the app on an iPad, add the Walking Dead Wiki and then search for the page within Wikipanion plus.
  2. You can mark the page to be saved in the client.
  3. On other pages I have seen it save images, but for this page it didn't save the images (viewing it with Airplane mode showed this up.. images are gone).

Chrome to Mobile - Works!

(Thanks to David for pointing this one out.)

  1. Fixed now (Sunday 12 January 2014, 10:54:52 AM). Chrome to Mobile doesn't seem to work anymore. I installed it, but it fails to authorise against a phone, and the most recent reviews show that I am not alone:
  2. The Chrome to Mobile extension uses Chrome Cloud Print to "print" a page from your desktop to your mobile device, and it also has an option to send an offline copy.
  3. When you send an offline copy, you can view your history in Chrome mobile, and if you are offline, it will present an option to view the offline version instead (because it won't load the online version).

Stock Galaxy Browser: Save for Offline Reading

  1. Getting more desperate, the stock Galaxy S3 browser lets you save pages for offline reading. But I don't see that option in Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
  2. Found it - it works, but only saves as an image, so doesn't fit my use case
    1. Tap the address bar.
    2. Tap the green reader icon at the beginning of the URL.
    3. Tap Menu > Save as image.

Opera Mini Browser on Android

Opera Mini Browser for Android has an option to save pages for offline viewing.

Worked! It save my target page for offline browsing and lets me search within its contents. Doesn't exactly fit the scenario I was after, but the most important functions are there (offline access, search within page, it keeps the images).

Though I note that when I tried to load the Walking Dead Wiki page of comic book characters, it didn't even load all of the images.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Turn of the Screw

Wikipedia | thebestaudiobooks - read by B J Harrison

The Turn of the Screw, originally published in 1898, is a ghost story written by Henry James.

I found this story to be equal parts frustrating and interesting. Half way through I was muttering imprecations towards the governess over why she didn't outright ask the children what they saw or ask the school why the boy was expelled. Three quarters in I decided that the author was deliberately obscuring a clear understanding of what was going on, and by the end I wanted to throw my iPod out the window because I felt cheated, utterly denied any proper understanding of what the heck just happened!

Reading Wikipedia confirmed what I was thinking. Henry James deliberately created an ambiguous tale. I enjoyed the occasional suspense and the florid turn of phrase. I also recognised the concept of an unreliable narrator as being a colorful way to keep the reader guessing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Beware of Bartrak

Now that time has passed, I can write up this experience without the blood boiling so much. (a Melbourne agent for in Berwick are sharks. Beware if you use them: don't go near them without a print-out verifying *everything* you ordered. And DO NOT PAY until you have seen the vehicle you will get.

Our road trip holiday started out with a nightmare. Berwick outright lied to us: we booked a 6 berth automatic and when we got there, they told us they only had a 4 berth manual (we can't even drive a manual). When we complained that this isn't what we booked, the response was: can you prove it? They wouldn't refund us, or even refund us the difference between the 6 berth we paid for and the 4 berth automatic they begrudgingly made appear after two hours of fighting with them. When I rang their Sydney head office, the guy was rude and hung up on me. Since they already had our money and would not refund us, we took the 4 berth automatic.

Once on the road, everything was great. We forgot our troubles and began enjoying ourselves: the motorhome itself was pretty good. The people were not.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Review of Superman Earth One

Superman Earth One [Kindle Edition]

J. Michael Straczynski (Author), Shane Davis (Illustrator)

Brilliant art, good story - could be better

Cover image of Superman Earth One

I enjoy superhero comics that are intelligent, coherent and rewarding.

Superman Earth One is rewarding. Clark Kent experienced a repressed childhood during which he found that he was extraordinary but could never show it. He put up with bullies and never retaliated. He comes to the big city of Metropolis, melancholy and frustrated by being unable to express who he really is and not knowing what course to take as an adult. Enter bad guys, self discovery and the reward of seeing Superman arise.

Clark Kent's development into Superman is coherent. The essential elements of his origin story are nothing new of course, but well told. He finds peace in being able to express himself as a superhero at last and is troubled but accepting of the need to wear a mask at all other times. I enjoyed the portrayal of Clark Kent as a character who is not afraid to look inwards (even though this was thinly veiled exposition through flashback).

However, the story is not as intelligent as I wanted it to be. It is too black and white. I did not find sufficient motive to explain why the bad guy acted as he did and I am not OK with accepting that his entire species would be so utterly ruthless. I want adult comics to be better than that. (Yes, I understand this is a *Superman* comic.) In addition, I did not like one particular sci-fi element in this story involving electrons: it is a minor nit-pick but I thought that element of the story could have been handled differently.

The artwork is great. There is superb detail, colour and expressive characterisation. The way the panels transition from scene to scene is really well done. Sometimes a panel will just focus on an expression - great artistry is required to communicate emotion in these stills and it is here.

The formatting of this comic is extremely well done on the iPad. Double tap and you zoom in on one panel, swipe left and right and you zoom in on the next or previous panel. This makes scene transitions *active*. At last I have seen Kindle comics do what Comixology comics do.

The one big flaw with the formatting is the lack of pinch to zoom - and I really wanted this. The art is so great that often after reading through a page or two as it should be read, I wanted to go back and examine the art in greater detail. I wanted to zoom and pan about to get a really good look. I think this should be added: the art is of sufficiently high definition that it would not suffer from allowing greater scrutiny.

In summary, the art and formatting of this comic is excellent apart from the lack of pinch to zoom; the story is rewarding and I enjoyed this introspective Clark Kent, but wanted a more intelligent motivation for the bad guy.

I would happily recommend this for Superman and comic fans, but don't expect the complexity of motivation you might find in Watchmen.


This review also appears on Amazon.