The Best of MV Tech Blog: 2012 Edition

If you have WordPress Jetpack plugin installed you should have your 2012 Annual Report by now. Below is the summary.

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WordPress only reports the top 5 in the annual report so I used Google Analytics as well to get the top 10.

My top referring sites in 2012 are mostly social networks  – Twitter, Stumbleupon, Facebook, Youtube and  XDA Forums.

Also, according to WordPress some of my most popular posts were written before 2012 so my writing has staying power. Sounds awesome! Now, here\’s the list:

10. Windows 8 Consumer Preview VirtualBox Installation Step-by-Step: It seems that many people interested to test Windows 8 in virtual machine. VirtualBox is free so it\’s not surprising it is popular.

9. iGoogle Alternatives – Find a New Start Page Before Google Shutdowns iGoogle in 2013: After all, many people still use a start page. I\’m not sure if it was a good move for Google.

8. BlueStacks on Windows 8 to Run 400,000 Android Apps: BlueStacks is getting better and better and if they continue to make more Android apps run with 100% compatibility on Windows 8 it might become the best way to run Android on x86 machines.

7. Google Black Navigation Bar: Remove, Disable or Change It: People are still not stopping to make Google black navigation bar a facelift. Maybe Google should consider giving more options to people like how Microsoft gives more option to customize Windows start menu and Apple, OS X dock.

6. Windows 8 Release Preview VirtualBox Installation and Error Troubleshooting: This is a surprise because I have three Windows related blog posts in top 10.

5. 8 Blogging Lessons from Game of Thrones (Part 1): Game of Thrones is one of my favorite show this year and it will return on March 31, 2013 as  hinted in HBO teaser.

4. Browser Wars Illustrated: From #7, up to #4. I never thought browser wars is that popular.

3. Free Facebook Mobile Access (Philippines Promo): While the promo is not available anymore, some people are still looking for free Facebook access using their mobile phones. With the increasing availability of LTE phone I could see that it will stay on my top posts for quite a while.

2. Kindle Comparison Chart – Kindle Fire vs. Others: Same as last year, still in #2. I really think I should write more about gadgets.

1. How to Wisely Use DFA Passport Appointment System: Still my #1 post. I hope it still serves as a helpful guideline for many Filipinos who are confused on how to get the new Philippine e-passport.

I wrote a total of 83 posts this year and this is my most active year in blogging yet after my long hiatus in 2008.

I know I can do more next year so I am excited to start 2013 already. In just a few hours, it\’s already 2013. Happy New Year !

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BlueStacks Beta 1 Now Available for Download, Android Fans Rejoice!

I\’ve written about BlueStacks before as the program that lets you run 400,000 Android apps in Windows. Well, the list of Google Play apps is still growing and as of February 2012 there are 450,000 Google Play apps already. BlueStacks Beta 1 is now available and its compatibility with Google Play apps greatly improved. That is all that matters, really.

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Yesterday I downloaded the 1st beta release of BlueStacks App Player and I was able to test it on my desktop computer. I was impressed because it has big improvements from the alpha version.

BlueStacks Beta New Features

You can download apps using one of the 3 app stores included  namely 1Mobile, Amazon Appstore and Getjar. Before, you have to do it with the BlueStacks Cloud Connect app only. The compatibility of apps also increased tremendously. The applications that I could not use in the alpha before are not fully functional.

There is now a home screen with all the apps that you  downloaded on your machine an app search engine. Whatever you searched and clicked using the app search engine will  be installed. It\’s a bit odd because it doesn\’t ask you for any permission before installation.

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The new BlueStacks beta included a new top dock for My Apps, the apps that you downladed; Popular Downloads, the apps that  are  most downloaded by BlueStacks users; Apps stores, the three default app stores that comes with the BlueStacks package; Lastly, Cloud Connect, the BlueStacks service that syncs your BlueStacks installation from your phone based whatever application you want to be installed from your phone to BlueStacks.

The dock is a welcome addition but it\’s kind of annoying because you can\’t drag where you want it. It\’s not even customizable. You can hide it and it will be minimized as a smaller icon hovering somewhere at the top.

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Notice that there is an  \”open folder\” icon at the screenshot above? That is a new feature too. Your apps installed in BlueStacks can be opened directly from shortcuts just like a normal Windows application. It\’s a very neat feature and it works seemlessly with the Windows paradigm. The only problem that I see here is the icons  are not smooth as they are not optimized for Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. I am not sure why it it appears smooth in Android though.

Games Compatibility and Performance

Angry Birds is working out of the box, even the latest version Angry Birds Space. Some of my favorite games like Lane Splitter is now working too. Check the screenshot to see how you can control the tilting of device using the arrow keys.

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I tried using the current hottest game Draw Something (free version) but it is not working, unfortunately.

Out of curiosity I ran benchmark tools within BlueStacks beta 1 and I find the results interesting.

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I know that there are more benchmark tools for Android but these are the two benchmarks that I am interested in. I used an Intel Core i5 2500 CPU at 3.30 GHz without a dedicated video card for the tests above. It\’s a relatively fast CPU and it\’s an unfair match even to the most powerful Android tablets out in the market today.

My goal here is to show that Bluestacks is has a very usable Android experience and it is a great alternative to try Android on Windows first before jumping on the Android bandwagon.

Conclusion

While BlueStacks is free now I believe that it will be a paid product after the beta period is over because if you check the task bar system tray options, BlueStacks explicitly mentioned \”Free during beta\” so it could only mean that after beta it is not free anymore.

I tested BlueStacks beta1, version 0.6.3.0686. I am sure that there are more features coming in. Beginning beta 1, it is starting to look like a finished product.

I was not able to test BlueStacks on a computer with touch screen so I could not rate how responsive it is to touch gestures and commands but overall, even if using a mouse to drag around the screen on an emulated tablet computer, BlueStacks is a very decent Android installation on top of Windows.

If you ask me whether it will be better than Windows 8 with Metro UI, I cannot answer that yet. What I know is that you can install BlueStacks on your Windows tablet computer and decide for yourself which is better. As long as BlueStacks can offer great compatibility with more than 450,000 apps it will be an unfair advantage for Android.

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Run Android on PC with BlueStacks App Player and Cloud Connect

Finally there is a free program that anyone could run Android on PC with ease. That is BlueStacks.

Before BlueStacks, I know at least 3 ways to run Android on PC. First is the official Android emulator, then there is an Android-x86 project, and Youwave. The official Android emulator is not for everyone. It is meant for developers who wants to test their apps before putting them up in the market place. As far as I know it runs on windowed mode. Android-x86 project is free and boots on supported x86 platform but it is not easy to set-up and run by your average joe. Youwave is easy to set-up but it is not free and only runs on windowed mode.

The difference of BlueStacks from other Android emulators out there is that it runs on top of Windows. With BlueStacks you can play Android apps fast on full-screen. It integrates seamlessly. Think of it this way: If Windows will create an Android version of Metro UI for Windows 8, it will be BlueStacks.

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There are 10 pre-loaded apps that you can use out of the box and you can add 26 more of your favorite apps.

\"BlueStacksUsing BlueStacks Cloud Connect, you can sync your favorite apps from your Android phone to your PC. It looks good on demo and it has a great potential to make all your favorite Android apps run on PC as well.

At the moment BlueStacks only released the App Player (alpha) and because it is still on alpha, expect it to have bugs. Some of the applications that comes with it seems to be buggy. For example, in Bloomberg application, you cannot edit My Stocks. Using BlueStacks Channel, I cannot use applications that I have synced using Cloud Connect from my phone. Only the featured apps work. Maybe this is a limitation because BlueStacks is still working on App Player Pro, or maybe Cloud Connect is not yet really working. I\’m not sure. Again, this is a very early version of BlueStacks so it is not yet final.

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Most applications that I tried to install failed to install because of INSTALL_FAILED_CPU_ABI_INCOMPATIBLE error. This is because most APK out there contain binary code aimed for ARM-based devices and not for x86 computers. So perhaps with App Player Pro, it will fool the \”premium\” applications that they are running on ARM-based device.

I was successful in installing BlueStacks on Windows 7 64-bit but there are reports that it is not compatible with Windows XP. Mac version will be available later.

Even though only a select amount of applications can run with this alpha version of BlueStacks, it is by far the easiest way to run Android on PC.

Watch the BlueStacks App Player demo after the break:

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