Android Apps

Here is a collector post where I’ll review and update the software I use and recommend on my Android phone. I’m now on my third android phone, through at least 4 major operating system upgrades and a host of minor ones. I use my phone for work and pleasure, to tell me where I’m supposed to be, listen to music, watch movies from my home server, navigate in the car, on the footpath and on the bus/train – and tell me where I parked my car.

– – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –      – – –

ezPDF Reader

There are no end of PDF readers on Android – including Adobe’s Acrobat Reader – but I’ve found ezPDF reader to be the best. I use it on my phone as well as tablet. I do a LOT of PDF reading. To get an idea of it’s capabilities – have a look at the user guide. It uses finger gestures for interaction and includes extensive markup and highlighting features. You can also add bookmarks to PDF documents to expedite navigation of large documents.

TeslaLED

Small but useful, it’s handy to be able to turn on the LED light built into your smartphone flash. There are dozens of apps around that do this, but I find TeslaLED to be a good one. It has a strobe feature and the ability to flash Morse code – not something I use everyday … It comes with a widget that you can place on your desktop and flick your LED on and Off.

Swype

Swype is one of the most poorly kept secrets on Android. I call it a secret because it’s not available on the Android Market – you have to sign up for the beta to get it. That said, it’s now coming as the default input keyboard on some Android phones.

The install technique is a little unusual in that it requires you to download an installer, then find and install the installer, which downloads the program, which then installs swype. Got that? Also along the way you have to register for the beta, then enter your details into the downloaded installer downloader.

But oh man is it worth it.

Many years ago, when I was very much into my Crappy Windows Mobile Phone, I used a keyboard called Fitaly. This was back in the days when you punched away at your pda with a plastic pen and typing on it was real bastard. Fitaly was a non-qwerty keyboard which was mathematically designed such that something like 80% of the most common keys were right in the middle of the keyboard. I eventually got myself up to something like 80 words a minute on this thing – it makes you cry when you look at today’s iPhone chicken scratch keyboard.

Anyway – since coming to Android I’ve discovered Swype. Let me say right now – it’s not available on iPhone. Did you get that? It’s not available on iPhone. Just in case …  IT’S NOT AVAILABLE ON iPHONE. So There. How do I make that blink with WordPress?

Swype is built on the same concept as predictive text input on non-qwerty keyboard mobile phones. Basically instead of chicken scratching your way across the keyboard, you swype your way along, pausing briefly (or not) at the letters you want typed. From the pattern you draw, Swype works out what is the most likely word. If there’s only one – it enters it. If there are several but the most likely one is very much the most likely – it enters it. Otherwise you get a list of possibilities, with the most likely being at the top and the default word if you continue swyping.

You can get VERY fast with Swype, and very accurate. I strongly suggest reviewing the tutorials and videos before you get too far into it  – it will save you a lot of frustration and lost productivity. Ask me how I know this.

ADW Launcher

I’ve never been one for replacing the standard operating system front end with something custom developed. My experience is that they’re at times buggy and often suffer when the operating system itself is updated. I’m not convinced of the productivity improvements claimed and quite frankly if I was buying something for the eye candy value, I’d probably have an Apple device, except perhaps the iPad – what the hell is the story with the tiny little icons with all that space in between them? Hello?

Then I was forced to use ADW Launcher.

I say forced, because the XDA crew decided to make it the default in Cyanogen – which I ran on my Nexus One for eight months or so. And since it was integrated with the operating system itself, I figured it would be plenty stable, which it was.

Then when I upgraded to the Nexus S and was forced to stay with the stock Android 2.3/4 operating system (still haven’t worked out how to root it) – I missed ADW so much that I bought it.

Apart from a suite of additional interface settings, I find on the fly manipulation of widgets to be extremely useful. I read about being able to re-size widgets in Honeycomb – I’m doing that now with Gingerbread and ADW. I have an extra column and row of icons on my screen, with everything sized down accordingly and spaced a little tighter. It’s an awesome bit of kit.

Juice Defender Ultimate

You won’t be using your new shiny smartphone for very long when you come to realise your battery life is crap. Gone are the days when you charge your phone every couple of days and when the battery is starting to look low you know you have until at least that night before you have to charge it.

Between these lovely big bright screens, ‘N’ wifi, 3g connectivity, GPS, Bluetooth, etc – you need a battery bigger than the phone itself to get a decent life out of it. Just one of the reasons I’m Android is because I can carry a spare battery and throw it in if I need to – try that on an iPhone.

Juice Defender give you Time of Day /  Location / Data throughput / Application aware control of the high consumers of power such as screen/wifi/3g as well as controlling application access and sync. Let me explain.

I’m in the hotel foyer in LA. I pull out my phone and turn it on. Because I’ve been there before, JD turns on the wifi and logs onto the hotel network. Depending on how long since the last one, Google Sync is started – checking mail, twitter, facebook, etc. Before this completes, I turn my phone off. In my pocket, as the data finishes downloading and the data throughput reduces below a nominated threshold, JD turns off the Wifi.

I leave the hotel. Every 15 minutes or so (you choose), JD turns on the 3g and another sync is activated. JD turns it off again shortly afterwards.

I approach “It’s a Grind” the coffee shop I frequent which has free wifi. JD knows where I am (cell towers) and turns on the wifi as I enter the shop. It attempts to log on but the Cafe has changed their password (again). The lack of data throughput is a trigger and JD turns off the Wifi again.

Juice Defender is indeed Ultimate.

FlightBoard, by Mobiata

Flight board is a really simple concept. Pick an airport, choose departures or arrivals, see the equivalent flight board. As someone who travels all the time this really simple app is excellent and serves me well.

Yes you can Facebook or Twitter about your flight and all of that shite, yes you can shoot a flight over to FlightTrack (slightly more useful). You can access delay data etc. The point is, at any stage during your travel journey, you can look and see if the flight is delayed, if there’s a gate assigned, if flights just before or after yours have been cancelled.

TeamViewer

I got out of the hardware sales/support business years ago, for good reasons. However I am doomed to support my immediate (and extended) family’s computer needs for the foreseeable future, and as such this is easiest accomplished through remote control. I enabled this for years through the paid tool GotoMyPc, but a while ago I finally went free with TeamViewer. It offers all of the functionality I need (Remote control, File transfer, VPN, Chat, etc) and not only has Android support – but has it in a way that is actually usable on a smart phone (something GotoMyPC has yet to do, even badly).

Skype

Skype pretty much sucks. That goes for the PC experience as well. I’ve used a dozen different VOIP solutions over the past 12 years or so, all mostly as a means of avoiding Skype – to make cheap calls also – but mainly to avoid Skype.

Whether it be the bloatware that Skype is on your machine, the restrictive private protocol that offends my open source sensibility, or just the fact that when you agree to install Skype you agree to potentially become a Skype supernode, routing calls to and from people you’ve never heard of, chewing up your bandwidth, Skype pisses me off.

But there are so many people on Skype, we’re now so far beyond the point where I can choose not to use it.

Skype is now beyond early days on Android and it shows. Finally we have Video. It took them long enough (ages after the iPhone). Finally you can also exit Skype and not have it running in the background. It’s still a confusing interface for what is essentially a simple need – but it works.  Damn it.

Volume Ace

One of the great features of Android is it’s flexibility. It’s clear from extended use that a great deal of thought went into the development of the back end. And the operating system is a documented open source development which allows apps to take full advantage to deliver a better (educated) user experience.

But it does make things complicated at times. Take volume.

It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it. In fact there’s two buttons on the side – volume up, volume down – what could be simpler that. But which volume?

When your phone is ringing – these buttons control (and leave set) ring tone volume. When you’re talking with the handset against your head, they control that volume. When you use the speaker phone, they control that volume. When you’re listening to music, they control that volume. When you’re being told what to do by turn by turn voice navigation, they control that volume. And so on. At last count I was up to 9 different volume settings. If you want overall management of all these volumes – if you want profile management of them depending on where and when you are – how do you manage it all? Volume Ace.

Apart from giving you fine detail control of these volumes – Volume Ace lets you save configurations as pre-sets (Quite, Night, Loud, Meeting etc) controlling both volumes and vibrate, and you can access these presets with two clicks off a widget on the desktop.

Car Locator

Edward Kim has made a fortune out of Car Locator and it’s easy to see why. As someone who arrives back from a week away in Sydney/Los Angeles to a large staff car park with no markings whatsoever (goddam I hate Melbourne Airport non-Management) – remembering with my fatigue addled brain where I parked my car is a real hassle.

This little gem lets me press a button when I park; then when I return, I run it again and it leads me to my car. The sonar mode (it “boops” faster and faster as I draw closer) is a little kitch, but you can turn it off.

There’s lots of other tricksy bits built in but essentially it does very well what I need it to do – locate my car.

K9 Mail

Ok, so the built in gMail app on the Android operating system is awesome. Since Google insist on updating it regularly, there’s just no reason whatsoever to look for any alternative. Then there’s the built in app for your other POP3, iMap and Exchange mail … therein lies a different story.

So after a short, dissatisfying play with the provided software, I went hunting for something else. I swear it was not my penchant for Dr Who that lead me to settle on K9. It does POP3, iMap, Exchange (although not in a way supported by my company – but that solution is below). It’s open source, supports PGP – and most importantly handles multiple e-mail accounts – at last count I’m watching 11 e-mail accounts on my phone – brilliantly – using K9. Push mail, notifications, a breeze. Enjoy.

Touchdown Exchange Mail for Android

Ok, first a warning. This app is not your typical $4.99 app – you’re up for about AUD $20. The trap with this software is that you get 30 days to evaluate it, after which you’ve found you can’t live without it – and you’ll have to pay the $20.

If your company allows exchange sync through their firewall, I recommend this app. Although exchange sync is native to android, I couldn’t wear the draconian imposition of a security policy on my phone. Sure – secure the app; but the phone? What if I don’t want a full password on my phone, changed regularly, the ability for the company to delete stuff off my phone, etc. Stuff that.

Touchdown does email, calendar, tasks, contacts, global address book, etc. Push notification (or not) etc. Very clean interface, updated regularly.

Winamp

I should firstly point out that I HATE iTunes. There, that’s said.

Winamp is a full circle kind of thing for me. I suspect that I was the last person on earth to actually pay for Winamp just before they started distributing free about 10 years ago. They’ve since gone Pro, but I never forgave them back then for taking my money and then turning around and making Winamp free. I wrote to them and asked if I could have the current Pro version free, but unfortunately not – the company who sells it now is about three companies down the road since back then. Can’t hurt to try.

The reason I’ve come back to Winamp is that the pro version on my desktop – apart from managing about 2 terra-bytes of music – allows me to sync playlists and artists/albums wirelessly through my home network to my android phone. Did I mention it was wireless? The Winamp player on my Nexus works well and is pretty enough. The lock screen took me a while to figure out and letting it take over my headset occasionally gets me in trouble. But it’s wireless. Enough said.

Handy Sh!t : (HandyConversionsHandyCurrencyHandyCalc)

Ok, so you’ve got to have three things on your phone. Something to do Conversions. Something to do Currency. And a Calculator. I managed to find all three from the same source.

I have to say, there’s something seriously cool about these apps. Something mesmerizing. I can’t quite put my finger on it. The Conversions and Currency work well enough – the currencies update and you can add your own conversions if you’re trying to work not just in Bhat, Pounds and Euro’s but also Galactic Credits. They’re clean and pretty to look and the the interface is easy to work with.

But the calculator is seriously weird. It has some very cool stuff in it – graphing, solving quadratic equations, fractions, Algebra, you name it. I was once a real maths student with a  real calculator at Uni – a HP48 that I loved and knew backwards. When I came to Android I was pleased to be able to install a HP48 emulator for a while – at least until HandyCalc came along. At some point, I’ll learn to use it properly. Then watch me go.

 

Perses, thy name is Ken …

At some point over the last few years, I have apparently encountered Perses, the ancient Greek God of destruction and have inherited his curse. Actually this is an imperfect syllogism, because while some of the things I touch these days certainly do turn to crap – they’re all basically computers. Unfortunately the Greeks seemed not to have had a God of Destruction and Chaos of Computer Hardware. I may nominate myself …

It was not always this way. My first computer – somewhere back in the early 80’s – was a Commodore Pet. It had a tape drive, filled half my desk, and came with almost no software at all. As fascinated as I was by it – if I wanted it to do anything at all, I had to write the programs. Because of my fascination – I did. I pummelled away at this thing day after day, night after night. A family friend bought me a book and I learned how to program in BASIC. A few months later that became limiting, so I investigated the memory map of the Pet to expand my repertoire. That inevitable lead to programming in machine code. Eventually I pulled the machine apart, but not before I had moved on my second computer.

By this time I was working part time in a flying school where I commenced my second encounter with studied obsolescence, the Sharp Mz-80B. This graduated me to floppy disk drives (the 5¼ inch kind, not the 3½ inch size we eschew now). Still programming in BASIC I was now developing software for a business – transaction processing, accounting, aircraft maintenance tracking, student training records – a heady experience for a teenager of stand alone, single use software development, one that I was destined to repeat again and again over subsequent years.

The Commodore Pet was launched prior to the ubiquitous IBM PC, whereas the Mz-80B was launched as a reaction to it.  Like many machines of it’s ilk – including the various Apple machines – it was all but destroyed in the open source developmental stampede that was to become the IBM PC compatible series. After my initial dalliance in IT obscurity, I progressed through the x86 PC Compatible series during subsequent years – beginning with the original IBM PC itself through various clones (who had the money in those days for the real thing?) with 286, 386, 486-DX, Pentium I/II/III/4.

By the time I reached the Pentium 4 I was flying for Emirates, living in Dubai. My spare time was filled with building machines for myself and others, ranging from the basic word processing machine (not as much e-mail/browsing in those days) through to top of the line machines – a few for gaming, but mostly for those who had to have the best of the best so they could … e-mail and browse on it.

I dabbled with various cutting edge technologies (read: latest unreliable obscure fads) ranging from over clocked processors, RAM and video cards; fast /wide SCSI; power line networking; early AGP video cards; you name it. I turned my own machine around generally every six months, passing it on as I upgraded components and at times replaced the entire machine. I regularly read my way through Byte magazine, and later Boot magazine.

The point of this diatribe is – for a long time I knew what I was doing with hardware. In parallel I’ve also spent a lot of time developing software. Most of this development work has been tied to one database or another – whether it was the DOS based Advanced Revelation (which I still have very fond memories of), DBASE II/III/IV, all versions of Microsoft Access and a few others.

Does this sound like a Resume? You can tell I have a history of IT hardware by the conglomeration of esoteric cables in storage in my roof and by the fact that I remember what almost all of them do.

The End of the Beginning.

The beginnings of my hardware devolution were tied to the increasing time I spent with software. Most of this work was for Emirates, in one way or another. As I slipped behind the hardware technology that was driving the software I was developing, I would turn to my friend Steve. I remember one particularly frustrating afternoon where I spent literally 6 continuous hours tearing down, rebuilding, testing, and tearing down again a machine that would manifest a hardware fault about 80% of the time during a Windows 2000 install. I dropped the machine in to Steve, who returned it the next day, having removed an errant staple from the PCI slot. Unbelievable.

Sometime later, after several such incidents, Steve dropped in for a coffee and told my wife Meg that any time I was observed to be picking up a screw driver, or God forbid opening the case of a computer –  she was to call him. He would drop what he was doing, day or night and come over before any real damage could be done. He believe this was a more efficient use of his time than tidying up afterwards. That I would suggest was the death knell of  personal involvement with hardware. While I tended to restrict myself to upgrading my own machine, when the steam was rising from my ears and my blood pressure could be determined from direct visual observation of my carotid artery, Meg would call and Steve would come, at times saving both me and my machine from a glorious mutual destruction.

This Week.

This brings me to my current desktop. As a gamer of old, despite the fact that I work exclusively off laptops now, I still keep a desktop capable of running some decent games. There has been something of a lull over the past two years as my job with V Australia kept me more on the ground and a whole lot busier – my casual 2am gaming after returning from a trip abated, although I’ve occasionally found the time for some casual gaming with my kids now that each have their own laptops. Until recently we would regularly indulge in some Battlefield, some Call of Duty or the odd round of Left For Dead. We use to play a lot of WarBirds, but once Lewis started to out fly me (at 14 yo) , the fun just wasn’t there …

But now my desktop is dead. Although only lovingly constructed (at least I assume it was, because having spent weeks determining the specs I got friends in Singapore to put it together – Steve, I’ve learnt my lesson) three years ago,  the motherboard is now fried. Being a Shuttle PC this means the case, power supply and motherboard are all throwaways. Consequently I’m knocking around with a hard drive, some ram a processer and other odds and sods, but no gaming computer. I won’t be replacing it anytime soon – my financials don’t currently support the level of investment required to replicate gaming performance.

How did this happen? Damned if I know. Last week I turned it on as I usually do and this one last time got very little in return for that investment of kinetic energy. Just the continuous orange light of death on the front. Somewhere along the way the motherboard absorbed too many electrons for its own good, as evidenced by some warped capacitors along one edge.

Last Month

Six weeks ago I pressed the power button on my corporate laptop – a 6 month old HP Elitebook – to receive the same response. Since it was the company’s machine, I took it into IT support. Two weeks later – and one visit from the HP service rep – it was returned, with a newly replaced motherboard.

“Your motherboard was fried”, he said.

“How” I asked.

“Dunno – it just happens” he said.

“How often ?” I asked.

“Basically Never”, he said.

Enough said.

Last Year

When I left Dubai I realised I would be downsizing in my own personal IT, largely as a result of more than halving my salary for the privilege of working in my home country. Before I left I purchased a Linksys NAS200 – a single box with 2×1 terrabyte SATA hard drives in a mirror array, sitting on my network router. In short this box allowed me to store and access material from any computer on my home network, and through the internet if I’m away from home – with the secure nature of two mirror-image drives should I suffer a hardware failure.

As I’ve moved through life my natural eclectic nature has resulted in collecting a substantial amount of information from those various airlines and airline departments with typically lax security. As it’s grown I’ve become quite protective of this information, hence the mirrored RAID array, which means my data is stored on two physically separate drives. I’m covered, I thought. Who knows, I might want to start my own airline one day, although probably in Second Life, rather than the real world.

And then one day almost 8 months ago I turned it on … you can guess the rest. The box had failed – but the drives were ok, and because I’d been smart and mirrored them, I had two copies of everything. Of course that’s when I found out that the box in fact runs Linux, with a particularly old and obscure version of the Linux file system that Windows never supported (or any other Linux file system for that matter) and neither will UBANTU, KNOPPIX or any of the other of the Linux systems I (or anyone I can find in Geelong) have to hand. I still have hopes of one day recovering my data. No virtual airline for me anytime in the near future though.

Most of the last Two Years

When I left the Middle East I used some of the frequent spender points I had accumulated to purchase a HP Wireless Scanner/Printer. With so many computers in the house (at last count there are 7, plus 4 iTouchs and two mobiles with wifi) I figured being able to connect and print to it wirelessly would be a real boon. Had I ever got it to work, I’m sure it would have been. I’ve banged my head against that damn printer for 18 months. I could never get it to reliably print wirelessly from my desktop sitting next to it – let alone ever print from any other computer in the house. My original choice has been vindicated in the end though – when I upgraded all our machines to Windows 7 – each and every one is printing wirelessly to the printer, with no effort at all.

I could go on, but won’t. I could talk about taking a bottle of half frozen water up to the bedroom one night, sitting it beside my bed and waking in the morning to find that condensation had killed by 4 month old Nokia e71 mobile, but I won’t. I’m starting to yearn for a simpler life without technology – perhaps a Mac?

Do you have any technology horror stories? Significant portions of your life spent beating yourself against technology? I’d love to hear them.

– – – – – – – –

Follow Up.

– My laptop is still with me, although with a new motherboard. When the motherboard was replaced, the strip of metal along the top of the keyboard that contains the power button and controls for sound, wifi, presentation, brightness etc – was damaged. Every now and then I can’t turn it on, or I can’t turn it off. However by this point we’re in a committed relationship now, so we’re persisting.

– I eventually found a friend who knew something about Linux (which quite frankly is too hard to find given the supposed “rising popularity” of the series of loosely cobbled together homebrew projects that is the Linux eco-system) who recovered all my data. The drives I re-used, the Linux Box is now a door stop in my son’s bedroom.

– I never successfully printed/scanned with the L7780 – until Windows 7 came along. After that, it was easy. Quick Vote : how many people believe that Windows 7 more than made up for Windows Vista; how many believe nothing could make up for Windows Vista?

Android Apps – Four

Recently Marty asked me about a new smartphone. Despite trying to fob him off with an iPhone – he went for a Nexus S, the same as I have. The next question was inevitable – what apps was I using. The rest is … a series of blogs.

Volume Ace

One of the great features of Android is it’s flexibility. It’s clear from extended use that a great deal of thought went into the development of the back end. And the operating system is a documented open source development which allows apps to take full advantage to deliver a better (educated) user experience.

But it does make things complicated at times.Take volume.

It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it. In fact there’s two buttons on the side – volume up, volume down – what could be simpler that. But which volume?

When your phone is ringing – these buttons control (and leave set) ring tone volume. When you’re talking with the handset against your head, they control that volume. When you use the speaker phone, they control that volume. When you’re listening to music, they control that volume. When you’re being told what to do by turn by turn voice navigation, they control that volume. And so on. At last count I was up to 9 different volume settings. If you want overall management of all these volumes – if you want profile management of them depending on where and when you are – how do you manage it all? Volume Ace.

Apart from giving you fine detail control of these volumes – Volume Ace lets you save configurations as pre-sets (Quite, Night, Loud, Meeting etc) controlling both volumes and vibrate, and you can access these presets with two clicks off a widget on the desktop.

TeamViewer

I got out of the hardware sales/support business years ago, for good reasons. However I am doomed to support my immediate (and extended) family’s computer needs for the foreseeable future, and as such this is easiest accomplished through remote control. I enabled this for years through the paid tool GotoMyPc, but a while ago I finally went free with TeamViewer. It offers all of the functionality I need (Remote control, File transfer, VPN, Chat, etc) and not only has Android support – but has it in a way that is actually usable on a smart phone (something GotoMyPC has yet to do, even badly).

ADW Launcher

I’ve never been one for replacing the standard operating system front end with something custom developed. My experience is that they’re at times buggy and often suffer when the operating system itself is updated. I’m not convinced of the productivity improvements claimed and quite frankly if I was buying something for the eye candy value, I’d probably have an Apple device, except perhaps the iPad – what the hell is the story with the tiny little icons with all that space in between them? Hello?

Then I was forced to use ADW Launcher.

I say forced, because the XDA crew decided to make it the default in Cyanogen – which I ran on my Nexus One for eight months or so. And since it was integrated with the operating system itself, I figured it would be plenty stable, which it was.

Then when I upgraded to the Nexus S and was forced to stay with the stock Android 2.3/4 operating system (still haven’t worked out how to root it) – I missed ADW so much that I bought it.

Apart from a suite of additional interface settings, I find on the fly manipulation of widgets to be extremely useful. I read about being able to re-size widgets in Honeycomb – I’m doing that now with Gingerbread and ADW. I have an extra column and row of icons on my screen, with everything sized down accordingly and spaced a little tighter. It’s an awesome bit of kit.

Android Apps – Three

Recently Marty asked me about a new smartphone. Despite trying to fob him off with an iPhone – he went for a Nexus S, the same as I have. The next question was inevitable – what apps was I using. The rest is … a series of blogs.

Swype

Swype is one of the most poorly kept secrets on Android. I call it a secret because it’s not available on the Android Market – you have to sign up for the beta to get it. That said, it’s now coming as the default input keyboard on some Android phones.

The install technique is a little unusual in that it requires you to download an installer, then find and install the installer, which downloads the program, which then installs swype. Got that? Also along the way you have to register for the beta, then enter your details into the downloaded installer downloader.

But oh man is it worth it.

Many years ago, when I was very much into my Crappy Windows Mobile Phone, I used a keyboard called Fitaly. This was back in the days when you punched away at your pda with a plastic pen and typing on it was real bastard. Fitaly was a non-qwerty keyboard which was mathematically designed such that something like 80% of the most common keys were right in the middle of the keyboard. I eventually got myself up to something like 80 words a minute on this thing – it makes you cry when you look at today’s iPhone chicken scratch keyboard.

Anyway – since coming to Android I’ve discovered Swype. Let me say right now – it’s not available on iPhone. Did you get that? It’s not available on iPhone. Just in case …  IT’S NOT AVAILABLE ON iPHONE. So There. How do I make that blink with WordPress?

Swype is built on the same concept as predictive text input on non-qwerty keyboard mobile phones. Basically instead of chicken scratching your way across the keyboard, you swype your way along, pausing briefly (or not) at the letters you want typed. From the pattern you draw, Swype works out what is the most likely word. If there’s only one – it enters it. If there are several but the most likely one is very much the most likely – it enters it. Otherwise you get a list of possibilities, with the most likely being at the top and the default word if you continue swyping.

You can get VERY fast with Swype, and very accurate. I strongly suggest reviewing the tutorials and videos before you get too far into it  – it will save you a lot of frustration and lost productivity. Ask me how I know this.

Handcent

The default SMS app is ok – but Handcent is SMS on steroids. To be honest I don’t use MMS or much of the fancy stuff, but I did play with a lot of the customisation options available.

It’s skinnable, you can customise notifications, etc. Importantly, Handcent has been very reliable. Believe it or not the default SMS app has not.

Next I’ll introduce you to an App that will finally let you take volumetric control your your Android phone. Er, the sound that is.

 

Lost in a world of IT Choice … Not.

This post went live in Feb, 2010 – back when I was in the wilderness of looking for a smartphone. I’ve since gone Android – first the Nexus One, now the Nexus S – and I’m pleased with both of them. But I’m writing an article at the moment about the lack of choice when it comes to a non-Apple tablet, and it reminded me of where I was last year with Smartphones – so I thought I’d revive the article …

– – – – – – – – – – –

I have a confession to make.  For some time now I’ve been indulging in an illicit, subversive, un-seemly behaviour – very much out of keeping with my persona and belief system as an IT hip type person (did I just use the word hip? Sorry, must be stress/guilt).

I’ve been doing this despite having a regular series of RSS feeds, podcasts, pre-defined Google News searches, regular e-mail subscriptions from a variety of sources related to the various fields of interests that I hold from time to time ranging through IT, Current News, Aviation, Aspergers, original thinking and several more. Yes, I have no life. Despite even looking through Twitter regularly and even occasionally reading Facebook … sometimes, about once a month, I buy a computer magazine. Yes, a physical, paper-with-disk-inside honest to goodness magazine. I hope Marty isn’t reading this.

I’m writing about it because yesterday I descended into the ridiculous. After years of this unthinkably legacy behaviour, instead of seeking to correct this weirdness, I succumbed to the economic reality of my addiction and subscribed to the magazine I most commonly purchase, for a year, hoping to save some cash.

By the way Maximum PC – if you’re reading this, how come the first magazine of my subscription came looking like someone had already read it, with no DVD? Is that normal?

Why is this bad? You have to ask? Magazines are static! Like most other mainstream IT media,  the content is out of date when it’s created – which is weeks (if not more) before I get anywhere near it. Trees die to produce them – completely un-necessarily in this day and age, in my opinion. The damn things are 50% adverts – 50% of which I have absolutely no interest in, even if there IS a genuine babe in the ad, much like some of the content of the magazine itself.  Print Media is dead, it’s only a matter of time, whether they realise it or not. This absolute truth is evidenced by the fact that the New Your Times is now charging for online content – something Rupert Murdoch has been bleating about, but now it’s here. Watch out Google News, your stealing paid content.

Now that it’s done, and I have my first magazine in hand, I’ve been thinking deeply about it and realise that this heinous act is a reflection of the shocking state of affairs we find ourselves in vis-a-vie the PDA/Smartphone/e-book reader/tablet market. It’s only technology dragging it’s heals that has allowed print media to last this long.

Let me explain. Two years ago I had a phone, a PDA and a laptop, and I was happy. Yes, yes I also had (and still have) a wife and family I love, a fulfilling work environment, divergent interests that kept my brain busy, a job that paid me enough and gave me enough time off to satisfy my family and divergent interests – but the point is, I was happy with my PDA/Laptop/Mobile combo. In a world of convergence, I felt I had the perfect solution for me – non-convergence. Then my PDA broke.

Since then I have been wandering in the wilderness without a replacement. Everything has been a compromise. I’m on my fourth phone, my second laptop, no PDA at all. My needs would appear to be simple, and for the most part common to your slightly above average savvy computer user (that excludes most Mac users I guess and by association, most iPhone users as well) who travels the world, yet with all my IT expertise (I’ve been buying computer magazines for a very long time – did I mention that?) – I can’t fulfil them with one device.

I want and need something that can REALLY browse the web, through Wifi and 3G, and do it on a decent screen – online and offline please. Something that REALLY does e-mail, multiple accounts easily managed (not like the iPhone), proper html mail. Something that will REALLY sync correctly with Outlook – Contacts, Calendar AND Tasks, without placing at risk the data that I (at times painstakingly) create and collect – thank you Nokia PC Suite for converting years of timed calendar events to all day events, almost instantaneously, bastards, that took me hours to fix.

What do I mean by REALLY? Well, that would be landscape and portrait browsing. Multi-touch zooming (one for Apple). Flash Support (one away from Apple). Being able to receive e-mail in one account and reply through another. Syncing through something works at least as well as MS Activesync has for about 5 years. Google synchronicity would be nice as well.

Good news on the horizon for Nokia sufferers though – Nokia have completely re-vamped PC Suite into Nokia Ovi, with a mac/iphone like interface. They’ve also completely removed the ability to sync your calendar and contacts with any other folder in Outlook other than your main ones. The day I sync my 1500 or so contacts across to my trusty old e51 is the day it stops working. Thanks Nokia.

Something that intelligently handles time zone changes so that when I tell it I’m in LA (or it works it out itself from the cell provider), it doesn’t go right ahead and adjust every calendar appointment I have throughout the time/space continuum backwards 17 hours – thank you Windows Mobile Phone, idiots.

Hey – does anyone know what PDA The Doctor uses? Something tied to the TARDIS? Anyone?

Something that will satisfy my occasional need to TwitterFacebook and IM (I acknowledge it’s wrong to call this a need and I’m seeking treatment, taking drugs and have a 12 step program, don’t worry). Something you can actually type stuff into – as opposed to the iPhone/Nexus One keyboards. Onscreen is fine but something external is preferred as soon as you get serious.

Something I can easily and practically use to read documents on – both real content which will ebb and flow gloriously across the screen like a properly constructed ebook, as well as pain in the ass PDF books and manuals that won’t morph at all, damn them. Something I can watch a movie on, listen to music on, would also be nice.

It needs a GPS of course – not so much for the maps, but to take advantage of the quiet revolution that Google is sneaking upon us in the form of search solutions that come to us with the combination of geographical as well as topical relevance.

Something with a battery life of slightly more than a day – as a pilot, some of my days are 36 hours long, at least in terms of finishing your day near a power point anyway. Phone calls would be useful as well – but it must enable VOIP calls as well (good one Apple, finally allow us to use Skype, but keep on blocking Google Talk).

And to top it all off – something that won’t cost me the best part of a thousand US dollars to get up and running – hardware AND software.

The iPhone, I hear you say? Did I mention the keyboard? What is it, not quite 2 years now since the iPhone massed the market? And how many external – blue tooth or otherwise – keyboards are there for the iPhone? Zippo. My old HP 4700 Windows Mobile 2003 device could sit on top of a $100 full sized keyboard that folded out of a container smaller than the pda itself and allow real productivity. Use the iPhone onscreen keyboard – don’t make me laugh. Onscreen smartphone keyboards are the biggest practical joke played on humanity since Chris Sholes “invented” the QWERTY keyboard, which in case you didn’t know is statistically derived to make learning to type as difficult as possible. Here we are 156 years later reproducing that keyboard on Apple’s ubiquitous iPhone. Don’t get me started on backwards compatibility or we’ll end up down the road of the Shuttle’s booster rocket diameter being based on the size of a horses ass, and that’s just not pretty.

Also, the iPhone is Apple. I have another problem right there. No, this is not a rabid, anti-Apple/anti-Steve Jobs bias, it’s a whole lot more anti-bias than that. An iPhone means iTunes. Syncing your data to Outlook with iTunes – have you tried that lately? You thought Activesync was a piece of crap? You have no idea. My kids have iTouch’s – an excellent platform, achieving just what they need it to do for them, and as far as it goes my hat’s off to Apple for the iTouch. But the iTouch means iTunes. We are now forced to put all our music and video into iTunes at my house. At last count, this is about 80gb of music and perhaps 900gb of video. After almost 2 years now of iTunes, trying to manage the music tags so you can find something, trying to recover bought music when we upgrade operating systems or computers, trying to get the library to share the content through to the media devices in the house – including other computers also running iTunes (how hard is that?), watching version after version of this bloatware crap come down through my internet connection like fat leaches through a tiny drain pipe, sucking my life’s blood away, I’m ready to buy two sticks for each of my kids and tell them to make their own entertainment. If they want to share their music, they can stand near one another and bang away.

Although I’m a PC guy (and deeply, emotionally offended at the PC Guy portrayal in the Apple ads) – I am not speaking with anti-Apple-ignorance like some. I did own one of the early iPhones. I was startled by the web browsing, initially pleased with the emailing, impressed with the growing suite of Apps, what a crappy phone. Did you catch that last bit, Steve Jobs? How is it that I can set an alarm on my 3 year old, fifty dollar Nokia, turn the phone off so it won’t wake me up (or go flat) and have it turn on and ring at the alarm time – but you can’t do that on $500 plus of iPhone?

I also support some legacy software apps that need to work with Macs, so I run a couple of virtual Macs on my PC. Let me tell you that’s no mean feat either. You want to run PC software on a Mac – Ok, you’ll need any of a number of standard virtual PC emulators that are easily obtainable and installable on the Mac and cheap to buy. Want to do the reverse, run the Mac on your PC? Now you’re in deep trouble, plumbing the depths of the enthusiasts market of hacked software and patched together open source, public licence solutions that no one in their right mind would touch. Something like my experience of playing with Linux a few years ago – no offence Linus.

So you can easily do PC-On-Mac – but it’s seriously not fun trying to do Mac-On-PC – what does that tell you? Which group of consumers has it right again? Would that be the 12% Mac market share? Hmmmm.

But on one level at least, I’m pleased that there are Macs in the world. When I’m struggling to fix some 5+ year old, crappy PC computer of a friend who invited me over on the pre-text of good coffee and cake to bang my head (both metaphorically and physically) against his corrupted Windows ME installation – it is music to my ears to hear them say “I think we should we buy a Mac – I hear Mac’s don’t have the problems of PC’s?” At this point my internal reaction is “Could you have told me that BEFORE I spent 90 minutes just trying your crappy Pentium Three computer to boot in Safe Mode? You’re gonna buy a Mac? – Piss off, I’m not going to fix your computer NOW.”

At this point, one of two things would happen. Externally, I would either say, ”Yes, I hear that as well – go buy a Mac”; or I would still like them at this point (good coffee/cake) and say “Yes, I hear that as well – go buy a Mac. It will cost you not quite twice as much, you will need to buy and re-learn all your software again unless you are very plain vanilla users who genuinely only want to email and browse.” (how many times have you hear that? Then they go and buy Halo and want to know why it runs slow) ”Your kids won’t be playing games on it and – oh yes – I won’t be around to fix it – I don’t do Macs”.

In spite of good coffee, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut at these times, and we’re all much happier now – or at least I am, because I only ever hear once more from my friends who buy Macs … “Hi, want to come round for a coffee – we bought a Mac and we’re having trouble with …” … “That would be great, but unfortunately I don’t do Macs … This is a  recording … please leave a message you don’t mind me deleting.”

But I digress.

I played with a Sony e-book reader for a while. Slow and ugly, it does an ok job of handling those properly formatted e-books I mentioned before; and a shocking job of dealing with the crappy PDF non-flowing text books and manuals I’m forced to deal with as an Aviation professional (and an IT amateur). If you have time, patience and some expertise, it would be barely acceptable I suppose. No solution there – besides, buying ANOTHER device JUST to read e-books is insane.

Google has released it’s Nexus One (sue, Philip K. Dick, sue), on the back of 12 months of Android phone releases by other providers. I have yet to play with one, and will do so as soon as I can, but what I read gives me some pause. Initial lack of multi-touch is an issue, only 512k of ram for apps another. In some ways, the Nexus One is like the iPhone mark one. Intriguing, but not there yet. I could be an enthusiastic Nexus Three user two years from now.

Apple is soon to release the iPad. While it’s early days, and damned expensive for a device that won’t replace my phone, it does looks very promising with a larger screen that may just revolutionise the e-book reader market, at least until Apple pairs it with e-books in iTunes. Goddamned iTunes. Of course no multi-tasking, iphone operating system, no external USB/Card access, no GPS/Camera/Flash Support … In the very least the iPad will herald a series of PC devices that will bring real functionality to the market.

Because tablets are the future. I’ve been watching Star Trek for years and know this to be true. Two years from now we’ll have tablets up the kazoo, reading the daily newspaper, downloading books from Amazon (and Apple), watching movies on them, controlling your Hifi with it, navigating in your car, listening to music, on top of the usual email, browsing, etc. You’ll even be lowering your expectations a little and gaming on them (although not Halo 5). Hell, perhaps the iPad will have an external keyboard by then. Probably not the iPhone though.

*    *    *

I have a magazine subscription. They say the first step to a cure is admitting your problem. In this case I realise what I have actually now done is to put the rest of the world on notice – guys, you have a year to get off your tails and fix the PDA/Phone/EBook reader market with a device that actually works. You have been warned – don’t make me renew. In the meantime – I’m going to lash out and buy a …

Ken

 

Android Apps – Two

Recently Marty asked me about a new smartphone. Despite trying to fob him off with an iPhone – he went for a Nexus S, the same as I have. The next question was inevitable – what apps was I using. The rest is … a series of blogs.

K9 Mail

Ok, so the built in gMail app on the Android operating system is awesome. Since Google insist on updating it regularly, there’s just no reason whatsoever to look for any alternative. Then there’s the built in app for your other POP3, iMap and Exchange mail … therein lies a different story.

So after a short, dissatisfying play with the provided software, I went hunting for something else. I swear it was not my penchant for Dr Who that lead me to settle on K9. It does POP3, iMap, Exchange (although not in a way supported by my company – but that solution is below). It’s open source, supports PGP – and most importantly handles multiple e-mail accounts – at last count I’m watching 11 e-mail accounts on my phone – brilliantly – using K9. Push mail, notifications, a breeze. Enjoy.

Touchdown Exchange Mail for Android

Ok, first a warning. This app is not your typical $4.99 app – you’re up for about AUD $20. The trap with this software is that you get 30 days to evaluate it, after which you’ve found you can’t live without it – and you’ll have to pay the $20.

If your company allows exchange sync through their firewall, I recommend this app. Although exchange sync is native to android, I couldn’t wear the draconian imposition of a security policy on my phone. Sure – secure the app; but the phone? What if I don’t want a full password on my phone, changed regularly, the ability for the company to delete stuff off my phone, etc. Stuff that.

Touchdown does email, calendar, tasks, contacts, global address book, etc. Push notification (or not) etc. Very clean interface, updated regularly.

Jorte Calendar

One disappointment when I came to Android was the Calendar App. As a big Google Calendar user, I was expecting quite a lot. Having used Pocket Informant on Windows CE / Crappy Windows Mobile for years (the crappy comment is mandatory) – I was used to a calendar app with awesome functionality. I ran my life on my old (crappy) windows mobile phone using PI – particularly tasks – and to find that Android didn’t even handle Google Tasks was a disappointment to say the least.

I hunted around for a calendar app replacement for quite some time. This included waiting for and eventually signing up for the beta of Pocket Informant for Android. Unfortunately PI for Droid never developed into the App I needed (at least not yet – I have every confidence that the crew at PI will get the job done eventually). Still, I need something for calendar/tasks. Along came Jorte.

It’s a nice simple app. Enough settings to get the job done, not too complicated. It handles tasks, including local as well as sync’d to Google. Multiple Calendars, Google and otherwise. Nice clear display, widgets are Ok (there are too many of them) and it’s snappy enough. I like it. One suggestion would be the ability to switch between multiple calendars (Mine, Meg’s, etc) more easily …

Winamp

I should firstly point out that I HATE iTunes. There, that’s said.

Winamp is a full circle kind of thing for me. I suspect that I was the last person on earth to actually pay for Winamp just before they started distributing free about 10 years ago. They’ve since gone Pro, but I never forgave them back then for taking my money and then turning around and making Winamp free. I wrote to them and asked if I could have the current Pro version free, but unfortunately not – the company who sells it now is about three companies down the road since back then. Can’t hurt to try.

The reason I’ve come back to Winamp is that the pro version on my desktop – apart from managing about 2 terra-bytes of music – allows me to sync playlists and artists/albums wirelessly through my home network to my android phone. Did I mention it was wireless? The Winamp player on my Nexus works well and is pretty enough. The lock screen took me a while to figure out and letting it take over my headset occasionally gets me in trouble. But it’s wireless. Enough said.

Handy Sh!t : (HandyConversions, HandyCurrency, HandyCalc)

Ok, so you’ve got to have three things on your phone. Something to do Conversions. Something to do Currency. And a Calculator. I managed to find all three from the same source.

I have to say, there’s something seriously cool about these apps. Something mesmerizing. I can’t quite put my finger on it. The Conversions and Currency work well enough – the currencies update and you can add your own conversions if you’re trying to work not just in Bhat, Pounds and Euro’s but also Galactic Credits. They’re clean and pretty to look and the the interface is easy to work with.

But the calculator is seriously weird. It has some very cool stuff in it – graphing, solving quadratic equations, fractions, Algebra, you name it. I was once a real maths student with a  real calculator at Uni – a HP48 that I loved and knew backwards. When I came to Android I was pleased to be able to install a HP48 emulator for a while – at least until HandyCalc came along. At some point, I’ll learn to use it properly. Then watch me go.

Next time I’ll look at my Dialler, SMS and Launcher replacements. That’ll be a big post.

Android Apps – One

So Marty comes to me recently and says he needs a new phone. No longer satisfied with his relatively new Nokia e71 (Hey Nokia, come on out of the 90’s, I’m sorry – but Symbian is dead) he wanted my recommendation for a smartphone.

Naturally my recommendation was – “Buy Apple – that would be the iPhone 4” – as is always my recommendation when I have no interest in providing after sales support for a computer product (which is what a smart phone is) that I didn’t sell. I’ve been advising people for years to buy Mac. When it breaks or they get a virus, or can’t get it to work (and yes, that does happen, even on a Mac)  – what do I know, I’m a PC-Guy, I can’t help you.

Of course Marty didn’t fall for that and instead bought … a Samsung Nexus S, the exact same phone I have. Boy, didn’t that backfire.

So now of course he’s asked me to recommend him software for his phone. To top THAT off – he suggested I make it an article on Internoetics. Sure, why not. That will take at least 4 times as long as jotting down notes randomly in an e-mail. Now I’ll have to actually THINK about it.

Disclaimer : Sorry – you were hoping for a little more altruism in a tech writer were you? Well in that case – go read someone who doesn’t work at least one other (sometimes it feels like two) full time jobs. So that’s why you won’t find this article rife with gradings or competitive products, or links to the developer’s web site. You’ll work it out. Just search the Market. I will say that I actually use these apps, have done so for a while, and in most cases have come to them through a process of elimination, in several cases paying for the app when I didn’t have to, because they’re that good.

Operating System – Cyanogen

This may seem like a weired place to start – but that’s what Android is all about. Absolute freedom of choice. Want a phone with a slide out keyboard? Sure thing. Want something with the mother of all screens (Dell Streak, you were a ridiculous choice for me, I couldn’t even fit you in my pocket) – we have that. Want something with lots of manufacturer’s software plastered all over it – we have that in spades as well. Damn you HTC.

Current Google Android is 2.3.2 the “Gingerbread” version, the last release prior to the tablet 3.x “Honeycomb” release. This should do almost all users fine. But if you want something better (and it is better) the have a look at Cyanogen.

Because Android is open source and therefore the source code is available – the crew over at XDA decided a while ago to tweak the original code and add some features of their own. Once thing lead to another and now there’s a complete alternative operating system (actually several of them) sitting out there for your phone. It’s replete with settings and features over and above the already flexible Gingerbread.

I was running Cyanogen 6 and then 7 beta on my Nexus One and if I could figure out how to “Root” my Nexus S I’d be running it now. That’s one disadvantage of alternative operating systems – you need to have root access to your phone first, which should be easy … but …

ROM Manager

If you are going to evaluate and use a different ROM (not just Cyanogen – there are quite a few out there) then ROM Manager is for you. Once you have root access it will allow you to swap in and out of different operating systems on your phone – it’ll even find them for you. Note that an operating system release is particular to a phone so if you have for example a HTC Insult you’ll need the Cyanogen build for that particular phone.

ROM Manager also handles entire ROM (including user data) backups to SD which is nice – and it does it from the boot manager so it’s a 99.9% perfect backup – based on the assumption that nothing is ever 100% :)

Twitter for Android

I don’t use this application, but it comes with Gingerbread now, and you need to keep it up to date. It does the integration of your twitter followee’s (people you follow) with your address book, which I find handy. It’s ok as a basic twitter client, but I prefer TweetDeck.

But thanks to Twitter follower syncing on my Android phone – and Marty’s METAR twitter feeds (eg: www.twitter.com/YMMLMETAR) – my contact list now has the most current METAR for each airport I operate to.

Dropbox

If you’re a Dropbox user (why not?) then then this android client from Dropbox themselves does the job nicely. There are some things that would be nice if it could do like automatic sync of nominated folders, but as far as it goes, the official Dropbox Android app lets you access your dropbox files while you’re on the go, which is what you need.

FlightBoard, by Mobiata

Flight board is a really simple concept. Pick an airport, choose departures or arrivals, see the equivalent flight board. As someone who travels all the time this really simple app is excellent and serves me well.

Yes you can Facebook or Twitter about your flight and all of that shite, yes you can shoot a flight over to FlightTrack (slightly more useful). You can access delay data etc. The point is, at any stage during your travel journey, you can look and see if the flight is delayed, if there’s a gate assigned, if flights just before or after yours have been cancelled.

Dolphin Browser

The inbuilt android web browser is ok as far as it goes – but Dolphin goes a lot further. For a while I was using the executive-on-steroids Dolphin HD version with it’s gestures, sync’d bookmarks, library of plugins that could do everything from snapping pictures of web pages to converting them to PDF documents on the fly. Eventually I decided simple and quick was what I needed on my phone – which is NOT a pc, and shouldn’t be treated as such – and defaulted to Dolphin Mini. It does flash on demand, stores a few favorites on a home screen, basic gestures and a few other bits and bobs. If you want the full featured browser experience on your android phone – or your android tablet – I’d recommend Dolphin HD. Otherwise – Dolphin Mini is good.

Skype

Skype pretty much sucks. That goes for the PC experience as well. I’ve used a dozen different VOIP solutions over the past 12 years or so, all mostly as a means of avoiding Skype – to make cheap calls also – but to avoid Skype.

Whether it be the bloatware that Skype is on your machine, the restrictive private protocol that offends my open source sensibility, or just the fact that when you agree to install Skype you agree to potentially become a Skype supernode, routing calls to and from people you’ve never heard of, chewing up your bandwidth, Skype pisses me off.

But there are so many people on Skype, we’re now so far beyond the point where I can choose not to use it.

Skype on Android is in it’s early days and it shows. Still no Video. It took them long enough (ages after the iPhone) to get Skype on Android, so I shouldn’t be surprised. The damn app hangs around in memory, it’s difficult to get rid of it once you stop using it, and it’s the five stars all hands down winning app most likely to force me to reboot my phone. I played with Fring or a while, but then Skype stopped Fring’s ability to access your Skype contacts, so back to square one. Fring of course now does video calls, but what use is that when all your friends are on Skype? Damn it.

NewsRob

I follow a lot of RSS feeds. Whether it be podcasts or news feeds, I managed almost all of them through Google Reader and it was a bitter disappointment when I found Google didn’t have one for Android. I went through quite a few of them (honorable mention for FeedR and NewsRoom) but settled on NewsRob. It integrates exceedingly well with Google Reader (which was my primary requirement) as well as allowing me to subscribe to other feeds separately. It has it’s own built in browser when you just want to look at the site version of the rss stream, including flash integration; it includes image snapshot in the story summary page where available – and if Marty would turn it on at Flight.Org, allows you to download both the feed and web version for offline reading – very important to me since I use the rss feeds mostly when I don’t have wifi access. Maybe now Marty has a decent phone …

Juice Defender Ultimate

You won’t be using your new shiny smartphone for very long when you come to realise your battery life is crap. Gone are the days when you charge your phone every couple of days and when the battery is starting to look low you know you have until at least that night before you have to charge it.

Between these lovely big bright screens, ‘N’ wifi, 3g connectivity, GPS, Bluetooth, etc – you need a battery bigger than the phone itself to get a decent life out of it. Just one of the reasons I’m Android is because I can carry a spare battery and throw it in if I need to – try that on an iPhone.

Juice Defender give you Time of Day /  Location / Data throughput / Application aware control of the high consumers of power such as screen/wifi/3g as well as controlling application access and sync. Let me explain.

I’m in the hotel foyer in LA. I pull out my phone and turn it on. Because I’ve been there before, JD turns on the wifi and logs onto the hotel network. Depending on how long since the last one, Google Sync is started – checking mail, twitter, facebook, etc. Before this completes, I turn my phone off. In my pocket, as the data finishes downloading and the data throughput reduces below a nominated threshold, JD turns off the Wifi.

I leave the hotel. Every 15 minutes or so (you choose), JD turns on the 3g and another sync is activated. JD turns it off again shortly afterwards.

I approach “It’s a Grind” the coffee shop I frequent which has free wifi. JD knows where I am (cell towers) and turns on the wifi as I enter the shop. It attempts to log on but the Cafe has changed their password (again). The lack of data throughput is a trigger and JD turns off the Wifi again.

Juice Defender is indeed Ultimate.

Car Locator

Edward Kim has made a fortune out of this App and it’s easy to see why. As someone who arrives back from a week away in Sydney/Los Angeles to a large staff car park with no markings whatsoever (goddam I hate Melbourne Airport non-Management) – remembering with my fatigue addled brain where I parked my car is a real hassle.

This little gem lets me press a button when I park; then when I return, I run it again and it leads me to my car. The sonar mode (it “boops” faster and faster as I draw closer) is a little kitch, but you can turn it off.

There’s lots of other tricksy bits built in but essentially it does very well what I need it to do – locate my car.

[Read more…]