How-To: Run Android Apps on Your Windows and Mac Computers

750,000 is a large number. It is not only the approximate land area of Mexico in sq mi., but also the total number of available Android apps. It is also the tagline of our product of the day—BlueStacks. BlueStacks is a unique application that can be downloaded to your Windows PC or your Apple Mac computer in order to run any of these 750,000 Android apps. Pretty cool, huh?

Yesterday, BlueStacks released its application to work with MS Surface Pro, which means the application has support for Windows 8 as well. This means, Android cannot boast having such a vast app ecosystem anymore.

It is a pretty big offering indeed. Being able to run any of those 750,000 Android apps is a really nice thing. So, we decided to give it a shot and see how BlueStacks works on a Windows computer.

1. Installing BlueStacks

 

You can download BlueStacks from here, depending on the operating system used. After getting the version, just install the file on your computer. I have installed BlueStacks on a Windows 7 Pro computer.

BlueStacks on Win 7 installation

 

BlueStacks on Win 7 installation 2

 

BlueStacks on Win 7 installation 3

 

BlueStacks on Win 7 installation 4

 

You should enable App store access and App notifications during the installation process, in order for BlueStacks to search on Google Play and other app stores. The important thing is through BlueStacks, you have access to other app stores like GetJar, 1Mobile and Amazon Appstore for Android.

On several forum posts in the BlueStacks support forum, there are issues reported by users running Windows 7 64-bit systems. We haven’t been able to reproduce any issues on my system though. The application installed perfectly and showed us its main window.

2. Associate Your Google Account

 

As soon as you have installed the application, you can associate your Google account with it. This is one of the primary steps in associating Google Play store to the app.

Linking Google account

 

Google Play store set up

 

Successful linking of Google account

 

3. The Interface

 

On my 16-inch screen, BlueStacks looked quite like an enlarged tablet. It has the same user interface features of an Android device. It does have that pull-down menu from the top but there isn’t anything in it other than app notifications. In effect, you cannot use it as an Android emulator on Windows.

BlueStacks Main window

 

The home screen is a well-navigable page containing popular apps and a search function, using which you can search for apps from all of those app stores.

4. Installing Apps

 

When you search for a new app, it will display a window containing app recommendations.

App recommendations

 

From these recommendations, if you select an app and click ‘install’, it will in turn search within the app stores and will find the app.

searching for apps

 

Apps displayed from various app stores

 

If the app is not compatible, it will say so. Otherwise, you will be able to install the app and select automatic update if necessary.

Mozilla Firefox install

 

So, as you can see, I have downloaded and installed Firefox on BlueStacks to test the system. Let’s analyze how the app runs.

5. App Performance

 

After installing Firefox, the system tray notification area on Windows 7 showed the notification of the completed installation. I fired up Firefox and tried to browse a bit. It loaded our home page, albeit slowly.

Firefox displaying BlueBugle

 

Other apps that I tried also worked perfectly without any issues. I tried installing quite a few apps and tested them. Some of the apps include Evernote, Temple Run, the official Facebook app, etc. They all worked pretty well on BlueStacks.

Facebook Android app on BlueStacks

 

Temple Run 2

 

Evernote on BlueStacks

 

The downloaded app data are stored in BlueStacks special folder at "C:ProgramDataBlueStacks".

Conclusion

 

BlueStacks is an amazing application to run Android apps on your PC. It is, as I mentioned earlier, also available for your Macintosh computer. You should note that this is just an app player and not in anyway an Android simulator. It only creates an interface for our computer to be able to run Android apps, and it works pretty well. It can be used to take advantage of your favorite smartphone apps on your PC.

On Surface Pro, this is a very good improvement, as Surface Pro can perform like a notebook, and it runs Windows 8 full version as opposed to the ARM-version, Windows RT. With BlueStacks, Surface Pro will have the unique ability to run all of the applications available for desktop Windows and Android. Windows RT will have to use the fewer number of apps available in the Windows store as it cannot run BlueStacks.

Whether-or-Not-to-Buy: Google Chromebook Pixel

Here we are back with the whether-or-not-to-buy series. Today’s topic is Google’s new Chromebook Pixel. This is the first ever touch-enabled Chromebook. We have already looked at Samsung’s Google Chromebooks. Google’s Chromebook Pixel is the latest addition to the Chromebook line. We will check out the details of it here.

Tech Specs

Google Chromebook Pixel has some awesome technical features. We have a comparison here with another Chromebook, Samsung Chromebook 550.

Feature Google Chromebook Pixel Samsung Chromebook 550 Notes
Display 12.85 inch 2560×1700 px at 239 ppi (multi-touch) protected with Gorilla Glass 12.1 inch (1280×800) Chromebook has better than Retina display (Apple MacBook Pro with Retina is 227 ppi)
Processor Intel Core i5 3427U dual-core 1.8 GHz Dual-core Intel Celeron 1.3 GHz
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000
RAM 4 GB DDR3 4 GB DDR3 Very large in terms of Chrome standards
Storage 32 GB (64 GB for LTE device) 16 GB
Cloud account 1 TB for three years 100 GB for two years
Battery 59 Wh (5 hrs) Over 6 hrs
Other features Anodized aluminum body (as in MacBook)
720p HD camera
Backlit keyboard

 

The Design of Chromebook Pixel

 

design of Chromebook Pixel

Chromebook Pixel is one of the best-looking laptops in the market today. It has those Google colors at the back and is built with anodized aluminum.

Anodized aluminum body of Chromebook Pixel

On the left side, you have the ports—two USB 2.0, mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, etc.

Chromebook pixel side ports

The keyboard is backlit, so you can use it comfortably in darkness.

Chromebook Pixel backlit keyboard

Most importantly, the laptop is touch-capable. You could say it is an advanced kind of tablet.

Touch capability on Chromebook Pixel

The technical specifications of the Chromebook Pixel do not awe in many respects. The display is one aspect in which the laptop wins. While 16:9 has been taken up as the prime aspect ratio among most of the devices, Chromebook Pixel comes with 3:2 aspect ratio, which is equivalent to 15:10. But the PPI ratio is the most important aspect of the laptop. It is high, even higher than the MacBook Pro with 227 ppi. However, you should note the fact that MacBook Pro is 13.3 inches, while Chromebook Pixel is 12.85 pixels. As per viewing distance reasoning, both these displays may be identical in clarity.

Performance

The performance of this laptop should not be a problem at all due to the presence of the third generation Intel Core i5 processor, which can turbo-boost up to 3 GHz. We went ahead and obtained a comparison between competing processors—Celeron 867 on Chromebook 550, Core i5-3210M on MacBook Pro, and Core i5-3317U on Microsoft Surface Pro. Here are the findings.

Feature Core i5-3427 (Chromebook Pixel) Celeron 867 (Chromebook 550) Core i5-3210M (MacBook Pro) Core i5-3317U (Surface Pro)
Speed 1.8 GHz 1.3 GHz 2.5 GHz 1.7 GHz
Turbo Boost speed 2.8 GHz Not available 3.1 GHz 2.6 GHz
Cores Dual Dual Dual Dual
Threads 4 2 4 4
Cache 3 MB 2 MB 3 MB 3 MB
Graphics base frequency (render speed for graphics performance) 350 MHz – 1.15 GHz 350 MHz – 1 GHz 650 MHz – 1.1 GHz 350 MHz – 1.05 GHz

As you can see the MacBook Pro processor is better than Chromebook Pixel’s. Surface Pro has a configuration pretty similar to Pixel’s. The Core i5 CPU that comes on Chromebook Pixel is the exact same on Apple MacBook Air 13 inch model.

The battery on Chromebook Pixel lasts only about 5 hours, which is quite similar to what is offered by Microsoft Surface Pro. MacBook Pro on the other hand promises about 7 hours.

The Operating System

Chromebook obviously runs Google’s own desktop operating system—Chrome OS, which is an up and coming competitor to Mac OS X and Windows. However, it is not a full-fledged operating system. If you read our previous article about Chromebooks (linked above), you probably have an idea about the operating system.

1. Chrome OS Advantages

 

  • It is highly integrated to the web and cloud computing platforms, and hence it will need too little amount of resources. In short, it will be ultra-fast.
  • Storage required is virtually nil as most of the data you need is going to be on the cloud servers.
  • It is a free operating system that comes preinstalled in those Chromebooks and Chromeboxes.
  • Easiest of all OSes out there. If you know about Google Chrome browser, you know about Chrome OS.

Those were the major advantages of Chrome. However, there are huge disadvantages that overshadow the operating system on the whole.

2. Chrome OS Disadvantages

 

  • You are going to have to pay for cloud storage services if you are serious about this OS. Otherwise, you have to optimize an external hard drive as a cloud device. However, that is not going to be as easy to operate as in Windows or Mac.
  • The operating system is highly dependent on the Internet, and internet outages won’t be helpful at all.
  • You are not going to get any of your favorite desktop applications for Chrome OS. It will only have web apps similar to the add-ons you have on your Chrome browser.
  • Integration to other platforms is not quite good with Chrome OS. It is not even integrated well with Google’s own Android.
  • You can’t install Firefox or Opera or any other of your favorite browser on Chrome OS, although it is a browser-based operating system. If you want to work with Chrome, learn to love Google Chrome browser.
  • Other operating systems like Mac and Windows can provide you the exact same experience by installing the Chrome browser. Anything extra you are getting with a Chromebook is quite limited.

As you can see, Chrome OS has more disadvantages than advantages. You could easily get a better experience with full-fledged desktop operating systems by Apple or Microsoft. Chrome OS is not even regarded as a competition to Mac OS X and Windows. In Mobile World Congress, 2011, the then-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt said:

There’s a separate effort called Chrome OS, which is unrelated in the following sense. Chrome OS is, you take Chrome, and build a completely new operating system largely targeted at netbooks and PCs. So one way to understand the division right now is that if you are an Android user you’re going to be on a touch device, and if you’re on a Chrome OS user you’re likely to be on a keyboard device. We’re working overtime to get those technologies merged in the right way. I learned a long time ago – don’t force technology to merge when it’s not ready – wait for the technology to mature so it can be merged.

It’s 2013, and still Google hasn’t found a way to merge Android and Chrome OS in the right way.

The Price & the Truth

Would you like to guess the price of the laptop? It comes in two flavors—Wi-Fi & LTE. Wi-Fi version is priced at 1299 dollars

, while the LTE version is 1449 dollars.

This is over 400 dollars more than Surface Pro, and doesn’t even compare to the Samsung Chromebook 550 which retails for only 449 dollars. Other Chromebooks are also extremely cheap—Acer C7 at $199

, Samsung original Chromebook at $249

, and HP Pavilion Chromebook at $329.99.

The highest end MacBook Air 13 inch is priced at $1399. MacBook Pro starts at $1199.

All in all, the price of Chromebook Pixel is very high and the hardware specifications don’t justify it. High PPI display is one of the features that cause such a large price tag, but that kind of a display is absolutely unnecessary in a laptop running Chrome OS, where we are less likely to run any graphics-intensive applications.

Chromebook Pixel also has certain other disadvantages. It has USB 2.0 ports, while all of the latest laptops come with USB 3.0 or ThunderBolt in Apple’s case. Chromebook Pixel runs Chrome OS and does not need an expensive processor or RAM.

Although 1 TB of online storage with Google Drive is charming, it is only for three years, and afterward, you will have to pay to keep the files as per Google Drive rates ($49.99 per month for 1 TB).

The laptop has only 32 GB of storage and 64 GB in case of LTE version. This is pretty low indeed for a laptop sporting Intel Core i5 processor and 4 GB of RAM. Clearly, it is a marketing technique to lure customers into opting for Google Drive storage.

Conclusion

You might have got the gist of this review when we were pitching Chromebook against other laptops and tablets. We have also detailed the major disadvantages of the product. Chrome OS and Chromebooks are for basic use, for those who spend a lot of time on the Internet and on social networks, and for those who favor web apps.

It is not for the regular people who do most of their work on desktop software. Keeping that in mind, releasing a somewhat high-end laptop with an unreasonably hefty price tag is not something we like to see.

Google Chromebook Pixel may be a high performance machine, but Chrome OS is not the operating system that should be running on it. Hence, our recommendation is no. You needn’t be excited about buying Chromebook Pixel unless you are really serious about Chrome OS.

How-To: Show Full Website on Your Android Phones Browser

When you open a website on your PC, you generally get the full website with all the images, videos, sidebar widgets, and others. On the other hand, on your smartphone, most probably you see only the post titles and excerpts, just the basic text content.

This is probably so even if you are using a sophisticated smartphone like iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3. You may want to see the full website on your smartphone simply because it can show the full website, sometimes at a faster speed than your PC. Heres how you do it on your Android phone.

Hack on Webkit

Most of the Android phones use the built-in browser which is based on WebKit engine. If your smartphone has the default WebKit Androiid browser, heres how you can display the full website on it.

1. Go to the browser address bar and type about:debug and tap Go.

about:debug on android browser

2. You will see various debug settings over here, and the one we need to display desktop websites on mobile browser is the user agent string (UAString).

about debug options

3. Tap on the UAString option and select Desktop in order to get the full website on all page loads.

user agent string on browser

 

Use Another Browser

In order to display the desktop website on your phone, you can also use an alternative browser. Some of them are Chrome, Firefox, and Dolphin browser.

Dolphin browser is the best of all Android browsers with nearly fifty million downloads. In fact, it is more highly recommended than Firefox and Chrome, which are I guess the obvious choices. Dolphin is feature-rich.

In order to get the desktop version of the website on your phone, you need to install an add-on on the Dolphin browser. This add-on is known as Dolphin Desktop Toggle, available in Google Play.

Dolphin desktop toggles

Simply activate the add-on and you will switch to the desktop version of the website instantly.

Dolphin showing desktop version

 

Conclusion

Some of the users are still using the old low-end smartphones with small screens and display resolutions. For them, it is always better to view the mobile-friendly version of a website itself. However, for the majority of high-end smartphone users, these tips are useful in getting the full desktop website on their handsets.

10 Worst Android Antivirus Apps You Can Get

Are you careful about the security of your smartphone? For your Android device, Google Play store offers a number of antivirus apps. There are paid and free apps from professional companies like Avast!, Kaspersky, and Lookout, as well as free antivirus apps that install and work relatively faster.

Among the security apps found on the Play Store, there are a number of free, lightweight ones, most of which enjoy a great number of downloads and high ratings. Most of the ratings are done by people who find the interface easy to use, but have no idea whether the app actually works or not. Many of us feel the app is great if the interface is cool, don’t we?

It is painful to note that most of these free apps not only fail at most antivirus tests, but experts regard them to be incapable of detecting any threat. Last year, the latest mobile antivirus test report was published by AV-Test.org, in which they tested and rated the best and the worst antivirus programs among multiple platforms.

We are now looking at the worst of antivirus apps on the Android store. These apps are still on the store because they may be able to detect one or two viruses along the way, and they are completely safe themselves, as found by Google’s malware detection system for the Play Store. That doesn’t mean that these apps are any bit effective. Let’s look at each of them based on popularity and ratings, and see how they fared in the antivirus tests.

10. BluePoint Security Free

 

BluePoint security

This app has between 100,000 and 500,000 installs, and hundreds of five-star ratings. Out of the twenty test files, it has completely missed detecting one, and failed miserably in 10 others. It was successful in defending against only five of the threats.

9. G Data Antivirus Free

 

G Data antivirus

This app has been installed between 100,000 and 500,000 times and has thousands of user recommendations. However, it has failed in 9 out of 20 antivirus file tests conducted by AV-Test. This makes the app highly ineffective in detecting viruses and malware. The important thing is that this antivirus has an upgraded internet security version that costs money. Definitely cash down the drain if you are purchasing it.

8. TrustGo Antivirus

 

TrustGo Antivirus

This antivirus app has had between 500,000 and 1 million installs from the Play store. Thousands of ratings for this app are in the five-star level. Still, it is at the bottom of AV-Test’s results, failing 13 of the 20 virus tests, and giving pretty poor results in three other tests. It was successfully able to prevent infection only in four of the test scenarios.

7. ALYac Android

 

ALYac Andriod

In between five and ten million downloads have happened for this app. Also, tens of thousands of people have rated it at five stars. And yet, it doesn’t even qualify the most basic levels of detection. 

Out of the 20 malware tests it went through, it performed badly on 14 of them, among which it completely missed five files and gave poor results for the others. It was successful in detecting only three of the 20 test files.

6. GuardX Antivirus

 

GuardX Antivirus

This app has between 100,000 and 500,000 app installs. It has completely failed in 13 antivirus tests, and has not given any good result in other six tests. GuardX has been able to successfully detect only one of the twenty antivirus files sent to it. It is a free app and gives a pretty usable interface. As a result, hundreds of users recommend this product.

5. Snap Secure

 

Snap Secure

This app has pretty low rating given by AV-Test. It has not detected properly 13 out of 20 antivirus tests, and it has given poor results for the other seven. The app enjoys over 100,000 installs, and has been rated high by hundreds of users.

4. Android Defender Virus Shield

 

Android Defender

Having between fifty and a hundred thousand installs, this app has been rated great by over a hundred users. The app completely failed to detect fifteen of the twenty virus files given by AV-Test, and it hasn’t given any action against the other five.

3. Android Antivirus

 

Android antivirus

This app seems quite popular with between one and five million installations. It is pretty lightweight and easy to use. Also, the people who are using this app have given it a pretty good rating, based on the usability. Does it really mean that this app is any good? Definitely not!

Android Antivirus doesn’t have a dedicated support team or a website that offers any quality updates. It is good at detecting a few malware and viruses, and is probably good at heuristic predictions. However, this is not the kind of security app that you should be running on your device.

AV-Test’s antivirus testing has placed this app at the very bottom when it completely failed to detect 17 out of 20 antivirus tests, and might have failed in the other three where the results were inconclusive.

2. NQ Antivirus Free

 

Antivirus free

This is the most downloaded free antivirus offering in the Google Play store, with anywhere between ten and fifty million times. The app is pretty lightweight as well at less than 4 MB in size.

In the AV-Test, it couldn’t detect fifteen of the twenty test files, and couldn’t take any action on the other five items. Still, due to the great-looking interface and ease of use, clueless users rate this antivirus high in the market.

1. LabMSF Antivirus Beta

 

LabMSF antivirus

At last we are at the rock bottom of virus detection capabilities. LabMSF has completely failed in all of the twenty antivirus tests, and AV-Test has remarked that it is doubtful whether it can detect any virus. Still, this app has between ten and fifty thousand users, and hundreds of them have recommended it.

Conclusion

Those were the worst of the antivirus apps you can ever get from the Android market. Despite their low ratings, they continue to be downloaded and rated by many users. It is painful to note that one or two of technology authors have included a few of these apps in their recommendations. You should not install these apps after looking through the reviews and ratings as most of the reviewers have no clue whether the app is useful or not.

Google Play store is fairly secure. Google’s support tells us:

We regularly scan Google Play for malware, and applications that contain malware are removed. We may also ban developer accounts that violate our policies.

That means you are less than likely to install a harmful application on your smartphone from the app store. Also, if you are keeping your phone’s firmware updated regularly, your data should be very secure. Still, hackers will invent newer ways to bypass detection, and hence, it is important to install a good security app on your phone.

Facebook Graph Search: How Is It Different From Google Search?

Facebook has yesterday unveiled a very important update to the social network, Graph Search. This is essentially the most promising search algorithm in effect within the social network. We all know the existing Facebook search system that returns more irrelevant results than relevant ones. With Graph Search, it is going to take a turn for good. Is this a competition to Google search? Let’s see…

Facebook Graph Search is not a web search thingy. It is within Facebook and can search only what your friends and others generally have shared with you. For instance, you can do a search for “My friends who like Michael Jackson” and Facebook will give you a list of your friends who have liked Michael Jackson profile page.

Facebook Graph Search

 

On the official Facebook Graph Search page, you have examples like this. Most of these searches have the keyword, “my friends” in them. This is probably an indicator used by Facebook to identify you are searching for a list of your friends who do a particular thing. What if you search instead for “my buddies (pals) who like cycling”? We should see whether Facebook returns proper results for that from the friends list.

When the Graph Search comes out of private Beta, you will be able to test it better. For the time being, get invited into the Graph Search Beta test and hope to get it approved soon.

Google Search on the other hand, is the king of web search, and it will remain so. Graph Search cannot be done outside Facebook. Anything you want to find inside Facebook, you have to use Facebook search only; there is no Google jurisdiction inside Facebook. However, you can always search for Facebook pages through Google. Try search keywords like “Tom Cruise on Facebook” you will get immediately the relevant Facebook page.

In order to return all the results from Facebook, try simple Google search like “Tom Cruise site:facebook.com” and Google will return only the results from Facebook. You will get all the relevant results here.

In reverse, currently Facebook also provides you with web search results. It uses Bing search engine for that. In effect, it’s like you are searching on Bing.

Facebook search web results

 

When Graph Search becomes available, you will be able to get more relevant results from Facebook concerning your friends and generally the users of Facebook. Also, since Facebook profiles have privacy restrictions, only the results shared with the outside world will be searchable. Graph Search is only inside Facebook, and outside, in the web, there is no substitute for Google search.