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Paolo Amoroso
Non-viral space & Google gems
Non-viral space & Google gems


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Making a Google+ collection trailer
Book trailers are a common promotion tool in the publishing industry, especially among indie writers.

To learn about video making I thought it’d be fun to create a trailer for my collection Space Apps for Android and experiment with YouTube, outreach outside of Google+, and maybe play with that internet of experiences buzz. Here’s the collection:

This is the result, my very first edited video.

The story
Well, I’m no storyteller. But I tried to give some logic to the sequence of visuals and information.

The trailer opens with a series of space images that progressively reveal the user interface elements of Android apps. Then a screencast demonstrates searching for the collection on Google+ and browsing it, thus featuring the content itself.

The video ends with a call to action information panel listing the collection’s name and tagline, a capsule description of what content it features, and links.

As in the collection I added to the trailer a touch of branding and content cues by referencing a couple of Android elements, such as the collection’s Android green color and the Roboto font.

Call to action
The information panel has two links to the collection, a full link and one shortened with the URL shortener, which also provides useful analytics.

Remembering and typing a URL is not always practical, so for redundancy the trailer includes a video clip demonstrating how to search the collection’s name through the Google+ search box. Assuming this is more intuitive or memorable, of course.

I took the screenshots on my Android phones, recorded the screencast with and edited the video with Using cloud tools is a requirement for me -- and a choice -- as all my desktop devices run Chrome OS.

The video features static images animated through the Ken Burns effect, crossfades, a video clip, and a few text elements. Here are some notes on how I made the video:

Making a video with WeVideo: my experience

I linked the trailer from a post pinned to the collection:

About Space Apps for Android

I don’t own any communities but I guess trailers may be useful there too.

Lessons learned
Planning and production were easier and faster than I thought, possibly because I kept the story simple for both production and fruition reasons.

The legibility of the screencast videoclip is terrible on mobile, so it’s not clear it’s initially supposed to demonstrate how to search for the collection’s name on Google+.

But it’s a start.
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How to invite an ESA astronaut to an event
Would you like to invite an ESA astronaut like +Samantha Cristoforetti as a guest at an event? Or do a media interview?

All requests for booking a European astronaut for a public event or appearance must go through the PAROS (Public Appearance Request Organization System) online system You have to fill a form (see the screenshot) with the basic event details such as the date, time, place, expected audience, logistics, description, and so on.

This opportunity comes with a big caveat

Astronauts are extremely busy professionals, especially when they’re assigned to a mission, and space agencies get a ton of requests. In addition, to maximize the PR and outreach value of such a appearances, major events with wide exposure may be preferred.

Therefore the odds of a PAROS request being accepted may be pretty low, so don’t take it personally it this is the case.
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Overcoming Chrome OS purchase hell: new hope for a new Chromebox
I’m looking to replace my i3 ASUS Chromebox with 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB SSD with a new high-end Chromebox with Android support, i.e. an Intel i7 unit with at least 8 GB of RAM and 64 GB SSD:

Why I want a fast Chromebox

Three great new Chromeboxes with configurations meeting my needs were announced a few months ago and are starting to hit the market:

HP Chromebox G2, ASUS Chromebox 3, Acer Chromebox CXI3 announced

So picking such a device should be easy, right? Well, not if you live outside of the US.

Chrome OS purchase hell
I live in Italy where, like most other non US markets, there’s a limited selection of consumer Chrome OS device models, typically low-end units with little choice of processor type, RAM, and SSD size.

I recently checked and it does carry the ASUS Chromebox 3 but only the i3 model with 4 GB of RAM and 32 or 64 GB SSD. This choice is insane given they still sell the previous generation i7 CN62 ASUS Chromebox. The same for the Acer Chromebox CXI3, available only with an i3 processor. doesn’t carry the HP Chromebox G2 at all.

Interestingly, the i7 ASUS Chromebox configuration I want is for sale at This is increasingly looking like my only or best option but it’s going to involve higher costs as well as more hassle for warranty and support needs.

Google and Chrome OS vendors can do better.
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View Mars rover images with The Red Planet Mars for Android
The Red Planet Mars is an Android app for viewing images of the surface of Mars by NASA’s rovers:

Simplicity is the key point of this app, which features a Material Design user interface. However, it would have been useful to have a few more options such as filtering by camera type.


The Red Planet Mars lets you browse the database of the images taken on the surface of Mars by NASA’s rovers Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. You can change date and share or favorite specific images.

The main screen features a tabbed interface with a stream of thumbnails of the selected rover in reverse chronological order. Tap the rover name in the bar at the bottom to switch to the corresponding image stream or the hearth icon to open the favorites screen. Swipe down to refresh.

Tap ain image to view it, pinch to zoom. You can add an image to your favorites by tapping the hearth icon. There’s also a share icon for sharing the image.

To view the images taken at a different date tap the calendar icon at the top of the screen.

The image stream of rovers such as Spirit and Opportunity are permanently or temporarily blank as the rovers haven’t been sending images for a while. Be sure to switch to a date in the past to see their images.

The main screen of The Red Planet Mars on my Pixel 2 XL phone.
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Google Play Newsstand Producer rebranded as Google News Producer
Following the merge of Google Play Newsstand with Google News, Newsstand Producer has now been rebranded as Google News Producer. You can see the new branding in the screenshot showing one of my editions.

Not much else changed in Producer for the time being.
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Chrome OS update status: what does no update mean?
The Chrome OS update status page currently has a column labeled Planned 67. What does the no update entry mean in this column? That the 67 update is still to come? That no information is available? Or that no such update is planned?

I haven't got Chrome OS 67 Stable on my Lenovo Yoga N23 Chromebook that's marked as no update in the table, so I'm wondering,

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About the Google News collection
This is a collection of news, tips, tutorials, and resources on using the Google News news and magazine reading app and its publishing environments Producer and Publisher Center.

My story
I’ve been using Google Play Newsstand and contributing to the official help forums since its predecessor Google Currents, which I first tried in 2012.

In February, 2014 I became a Google Top Contributor for the Google Play Newsstand Producer Help Forum, i.e. a Google-recognized volunteer who helps publishers and users in the forum. Google Play Newsstand merged with Google News in June, 2018 as the new Google News and I became a Google News Top Contributor.

Here I share my experience as both a Google News user and publisher.
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Reading magazines with Google News
If you purchased magazine subscriptions or individual issues with Google Play Newsstand they’re still available in the new Google News under Favorites > Magazines in both the mobile app and the website. On the website you can visit Be sure to sign into Google News with the same Google account you used for purchasing the magazines.

The screenshot shows what magazines look like in the Google News app for Android on my Pixel 2 XL phone.
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Waiting for the 7th anniversary of Google+
Things are pretty quiet these days as far as Google+ death or ghost town claims or are concerned.

But I expect things to change and more coverage to appear in the tech press for a couple of reasons. The first is the 7th anniversary is coming soon on June 28, 2018. The other reason is there’s an ongoing debate on social platforms spurred by the recent Facebook privacy scandals.

We’ll see.
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Using space apps for Android on Chrome OS
I finally got a Chromebook that can run Android apps, a Lenovo N23 Yoga:

My new Chromebook: first impressions

None of my other Chrome OS devices, an ASUS Chromebox and an Acer C720 Chromebook, support Android apps and I was missing the Android action on Chrome OS. Now I can test and experiment with Android apps on the desktop, including astronomy and space apps.

The screenshot shows for example Stellarium Mobile for Android running full screen on my N23. I’m going to post more here about how Android apps for space and astronomy run and work on Chrome OS.

See also
I posted about Stellarium Mobile here:

How to exit full-screen mode in Stellarium for Android
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