If John LeMasney learned one thing from his father, a corrugated box salesman, it was to always be prepared. “My father had a preparatory attitude,” he says. “He always carried the things he needed around with him. He always had a calculator, all the paperwork he needed, and everything else.”
Today LeMasney, a technologist and freelance consultant who lives in Ewing, carries a calculator in his pocket, too, that also happens to be a map, his entire music collection, every photograph he has taken, and document he has written in the last five years, every book he owns, a personal tour guide, and a secretary. Incidentally, it is also a telephone.
Most people have smartphones now, but few use them to their full potential: their capabilities are borderline magical if you can master them. LeMasney is one such power user, and he will share his knowledge at the Princeton PC Users Group on Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. at the Mercer County Library Lawrence Branch. Visit www.ppcug-nj.org/ or www.lemasney.org.
In his talk, titled “Android: Beyond the Basics,” LeMasney will show how Google’s Android tablet and smartphone operating system can do much more than just check email or browse the Web.
For instance, he says, an app called Field Trip monitors your location with your phone’s built-in GPS. When the phone senses you are near an interesting location or landmark, an alert will pop up showing you what it is.
“Like so many other things, unless you have a sixth sense, a seventh, eighth or ninth sense, you would just walk past something and have no idea that something interesting happened there,” LeMasney says. For example, if you were to walk around Princeton with Field Trip turned on, you might pass by a spot where Woodrow Wilson, former Princeton University president gave a speech. The app would alert you that you were standing in the place where America’s 28th president made history.
“To walk around Princeton with the Field Trip app on is amazing,” he says. “You get all this information without having to interact with anyone.”
LeMasney, who until this March worked in the IT departments of Princeton and Rider, likes to carry as much of his life on his smartphone as possible, hearkening back to his father’s lesson to “be prepared.” His music collections, digitized long ago, are now stored on the Google Play music service, which he can stream to any device that can log on to the Internet. The same goes for his documents and much of his book collection. And if he were to, say, drop his phone in the Delaware River, he wouldn’t lose anything, because it’s all stored on Google’s servers.
LeMasney says Google has made it easy for anyone to do this, and all it takes is a little training in how to use Android. For more advanced users, he says, Android offers even more tinkering options. Because Droid is open source software, anyone can tinker with the code and set up their tablet or smartphone exactly how they want it. (Droid’s rival, iOS, is not hackable.)
The most extreme example of personalization is Google’s new Google Now service. Like Google’s other apps, Google now takes advantage of the ubiquitous Google login. If you have an account with the company, it likely has been tracking your searches and website visits for years, sometimes using the information to target you with advertisements. Google Now takes all that information and puts it to work to your own advantage.
As LeMasney explains, the app will offer alerts and updates based on your location, calendar activity and preferences you have indicated by using your searches. Say, for example, you constantly search the Web for “eagles score” every Sunday. Google Now will catch on to the fact that you are interested in the Philadelphia Eagles, and put an alert on your phone if they win a game. Or it will notice that you follow a certain commute to work every day, and will let you know if there is a traffic jam along the way.
All of these capabilities can make someone’s smartphone an extension of themselves in a very real way. “Someone could be defined by what they write, what they photograph and what they read,” LeMasney says.
LeMasney has been a technologist for 14 years and says he loves technology the way a modern artist loves art. (He is also a sculptor, with a degree in sculpture and another in industrial organization, both of which, he says, he uses every day.) “Most people I run into tend to think of technology as something ‘over there’ as opposed to something they are enveloped in,” he says. “I want to make people aware of just how enveloped they are in technology. It’s very philosophical and it’s very psychological. I try to emphasize that in the things that I teach. I think the smartphone is the perfect way to explore that idea, that this thing you have in your pocket unlocks so many possibilities.”
On Another Subject: LeMasney will also speak on “Making Sense of the Google Chromebook” Tuesday, June 4, at 2 p.m. at the Computer Learning Center’s “Tips and Tricks” program in the Ewing Senior and Community Center at 999 Lower Ferry Road. It will be preceded at 1:30 p.m. by a question and answer session during which the audience can direct computer questions to the volunteer faculty. No registration is required.
“Come learn why I stopped carrying around my MacBook Pro and exchanged it for a Chromebook, Google’s low-cost laptop that runs just one application,” says LeMasney. “Chrome begins to make a lot of sense when you look at several converging factors, namely, the increasing availability of high-speed connectivity, the emergence of applications and cloud-based services for real-world functionality, and the ability to stay connected in rather light ways. I plan to look at both why the Chromebook works for me and the incredible power of this platform, but also why keeping a MacBook around still makes sense for some things.”