I’ve been using Google Hangouts as a text chat communications tool for a while now on both computer and tablet and despite some limitations, it really works great – IF it works, that is. That was unfortunately not the case when Google released an update of the Android Hangouts App – version 2.5.x – in mid-December, which seems to have completely broken the background push notifications and message synchronization of the app. Notifications only arrived when the app was actually in the foreground and messages appeared in the wrong order and often only when scrolling down manually. Notifications from all other apps including the Facebook Messenger worked perfectly, so it was not a general system problem and on my older tablet under Android 4.0.3 the problem did not even occur, so the Jellybean 4.1.1 of my current tablet didn’t seem at fault.
In short, the app became completely unusuable, and from the Play Store reviews it looked like I wasn’t the only one with this problem. There were various approaches to fixing the broken notifications, but from setting the notification sounds back and forth to switching notifications on and off in both the app and the system settings to several complete reinstalls, nothing worked. Then I read somewhere about the unlikely radical approach of removing and re-adding the Google account in the system settings, which surprisingly worked! It seems that something fundamental in the synchronization of the account was broken and only this drastic step fixed it.
The full steps that fixed the problem on my tablet were:
• Uninstall the Hangouts App. If it’s a system app on your device, uninstall all updates.
• Remove the Google account – if there are more than one, remove them all just in case.
• Re-Add all the Google accounts one by one. This might take some time because there will by a lot of synchronization in the background.
• Re-install the Google Hangouts app from the Play Store.
• Test the background notifications and make your preferred settings in the app.
• Rebooting with the Google accounts removed should be avoided, because some apps may not like it and could stop working, making reinstalls necessary. Other Google apps like Google+ did not notice the temporary removal of the Google accounts.
This should work in the more stubborn cases of broken Hangouts notifications – if this doesn’t fix it, only a What I noticed is that the process com.android.smspush was not running when the problem occured, but appeared afterwards – obviously this service is the one handling all the notifications for the Hangouts app and for some reason it breaks on certain systems when the new 2.5.x version is installed.
One other peculiarity I noticed is that you are not getting any sort of notifications anymore on your mobile devices while you have a chat window open on a computer in the browser or in the Chrome hangouts extension. This especially happens when you use the older 2014.1119 version, which pops up the chat window as soon as a message arrives, while the newer 2014.1204 doesn’t open windows automatically and instead shows the messages as notifications on the app icon first, only marking notifications as read when a chat window is actually open.
I hope this article is going to be some help for those who encounter the same problems, as there don’t seem to many solutions out there.
For the last blog post of 2013, I did something unusual by posting a collection of Google+ circles and for the end of 2014 I wanted to repeat this and make it a regular feature in the future. This is not as easy as it sounds because most of my circles are utter chaos, but once again I chose some of my most important circles to share at the end of this year to highlight and thank all the amazing people I’ve met there. I originally shared the circles yesterday directly on Google+ and this is just a blog article collecting those posts together, but in addition I also included a few of my Twitter lists here in this year’s post because this medium has also become a great source of information and interaction. But before we go on…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Photography Essentials – This first one is my “small” Photography circle of people I mainly found in the beginning over two years ago, although the size of this circle has doubled in the last twelve months. These are people whose posts I don’t want to miss even when I don’t have time to look at all the other circles. Don’t be disappointed if you’re not in there – there are two more much bigger photo circles coming up after this!
Photography One – This is the first part of my “big” hand-picked Photographer circles. Everybody from the Essentials circle is also in here, plus everyone I noticed in other circles, who plussed or commented on my posts or who I learned to know through other people. If you’re not in there, either I haven’t noticed you yet or you don’t fulfil my one requirement: you have to post your own work. There are only original photography content creators in here.
Photography Two – The second part of my “big” Photographers circle. I had to split it to be able to share it because of the 500 user limit. This one has already grown almost up to the limit and there will be a Photography Three circle in the future.
Science, Space & Astronomy – One of the other things I try to get involved in, or at least promote, is everything about these three fields and for this reason I have a hand-picked circle with everything about science, spaceflight and exploration and astronomy around. It’s a relatively low-noise group, but everyone from space journalists and scientists from the CosmoQuest & Universe Today crowd, many astronauts and a lot more people are in here. If you want even more, have a look at Fraser Cain’s Super Science Circle, on which my circle was originally partly based on – but it has taken on a kind of life of its own during the last year.
CosmoQuest, Universe Today & Co – This is a slightly more condensed circle and could be called “Friends of”, because in addition to the scientists and journalists working for CosmoQuest, Universe Today, The Planetary Society and Astronomers Without Borders, it also contains all those people who have or have had some connection to them. Most of those people are in the previous circle, too.
Astrophotographers – There is some overlap with the Science circle, but I chose use a separate circle for astrophotography to see all the beautiful images in one place. Credit where credit is due, though: this circle is also based, but not completely similar, to one with the same name originally shared by Fraser Cain.
Science & Astronomy – The first three lists are the Twitter companions to the Google+ lists of the same name, only with more and sometimes different people. This is where the conversation and often breaking science news happens – if a supernova goes off, a meteor comes down or something exciting happens in space exploration and science, this is often where you can hear about it first.
CosmoQuest – A further condensed science circle only with scientists, journalists and other people loosely affiliated with CosmoQuest, Universe Today and related organizations.
Astrophotographers – Even more semi-professional Astrophotographers are active on Twitter and that is where they often post their photos
Astronauts – There are a lot of future, active and retired astronauts on Twitter and I’ve tried to collect them all in this list, which I’m sure is still incomplete.
Astronauts on the ISS – This list has only the Twitter-using astronauts which are currently on the International Space Station – as of late December 2014, half of the crew is actively tweeting!
Spaceflight – Everybody and everyone related to spaceflight in all its forms, from the various NASA accounts to mission project leaders and the private space companies.
And this is the end of 2014 – let’s see what 2015 will bring! :-)
Perhaps some visitors have already noticed those snazzy new icons in the top right sidebar – I put them there last week on all three websites because I thought the links to my social media profiles should be a bit more prominent now that I’m getting more and more involved in those. While my own websites are still my main headquarters and all the important content I post off-site will always appear here too, I’m not scoffing at social media any more and have actually found it enormeously fun and useful. So where can I be found except around here?
Google+ has rapidly become my favourite place on the web to connect to other people and share my content. My main focus there is on photography, but I always share all the links to my other blog postings too. The community and interaction is absolutely astonishing, wonderful and friendly – I’ve met some great people all over the world there. Rumours presist that Google+ is dead or dying, but after almost two years I now have over 4000 followers and over three million views on my posts and if that is not alive, I don’t know what is! Interaction is the key – writing comments, having conversations, joining and sharing circles and taking part in communities is what Google+ is all about. If you circle me on Google+, I will most probably circle you back if you post something interesting in your stream and perhaps give your posts some +1’s or comments.
Twitter was actually one of the first social media sites I mainly joined for fun back in 2011 and I haven’t really done much with it from my side except that I regularly tweet the updates from my websites by way of WordPress and only occasionally talk with people. 140 characters are simply not my thing, but in the other direction it’s almost entirely different – I follow over 300 people and enjoy my daily dose of tweets very much to keep up with everybody. I’m just not very good at this kind of high-frequency sharing myself, although I can certainly see the use of it as a communications tool. I actually have two different Twitter accounts: @guidobibra has the updates from all the websites, while I use @dvdlogger only as a legacy account for the DVDLog website.
Facebook has become more of a necessity than anything else. I have a few followers over there, but those are mainly family and friends who are not on Google+ and I exclusively post my website updates automatically from WordPress – although I sometimes write comments if I have something to say and will answer comments from others. This is mainly because I really don’t like Facebook from a technical standpoint – I hate the web interface, the official Android app is completely unusable and if it wasn’t for some third-party clients I would hardly look at my Facebook feed at all. I don’t intend to get involved into Facebook any more than I have to, so if you really want to interact with me, I would suggest Google+ instead – although I certainly won’t deny any Facebook friend requests or commenting.
Instagram is just a bit of fun for me than anything else. I actually installed the Android app to follow some other people, but because I’ve had a tablet with a very basic camera since last year, I have been posting the occasional crappy tabletcam shot there. It’s nothing really serious, I consider this throwaway stuff and the “real” photography will always appear on my websites. I actually like the Android app, but I have no idea if I will keep this up further because the tablet camera is a bit cumbersome. Although once I get a smartphone with a decent camera perhaps later this year, there could be more silly Instagram shots from me, so even if it’s still boring in my stream there, feel free to add me :-).
The first icon in the row is, of course, the RSS Feed which WordPress is still generating automatically and as long as the software supports it, I will continue to provide a feed. Even with the untimely death of the Google Reader last year, the format is stronger than ever and other services like Feedly have risen to the occasion and filled the gap perfectly. If you add my blogs to your feed, you’ll always get my articles as soon as they’re published here!
Okay, that’s enough self-promotion for now. I’m actually not really good at this sort of thing and I almost threw this article away, but sometimes you just have to toot your own horn :-).
About the Icons: Credit where credit is due – the four in the post logo are from Brainleaf Communications, I just loved that retro look and had to use this free icon pack in this article. The icons in the sidebar are based on a collection called Socialtograms put together by Steffen Norgard Andersen – I was trying to find something simple and was already half through creating some from the app icons, but these really hit the spot and I think they fit well into the websites.