It’s been a while since I’ve posted an app review. That’s because I’ve better things to do with my time than play around with apps. Let’s face it, most of them are just excuses for badly coded websites, which don’t serve up a mobile version automatically, like this blog does. For example, Sussex Police. They tell me that they have realised their mistake and are now planning on coding a mobile version of their site. What is their problem? Their website is shit. It contains police blogs which make no attempt to join the rest of the blogosphere. Anyone could make a better version of their entire site in a day, using WordPress. They’ve been told but they don’t want to know. Presumably, they’d rather waste money on web developers than catching criminals.
Of course, Iphones refuse to let you see anything in Flash, so if you’ve got one of those you cannot see much of the web and need a different app for a vast number of websites. If you’re an Android user, you can just surf the web unhindered but there are still functions which require a specialist app because they involve data sets not easily available on the web.
The one app I did get recently is Weatherbomb. You specify your location, download data packs for various types of information and then ‘refresh’ the data set. It’s gorgeous to look at. Here’s the instructions on how to use it.
Obviously, I’m not particularly interested in the weather in Auckland. I am interested in Brighton. Here’s the humidity map.
Rainfall is more important for the allotment gardener. I love the way the colour-coded rain intensity swirls around Europe. It feels like you’ve got a proper weather computer in your hand! Hang on a minute…
None of this is much use, unless you know which way the wind is blowing. This is dealt with by means of little arrows. Since the wind direction is so important, you can overlay the wind direction onto any of the other maps. The arrows also show wind intensity, which is measured in knots. Each dot behind the arrow represents 5 knots. It’s not so easy to see on the zoomed out map.
Pressure isn’t something I’m terribly interested in but here it is anyway.
Here’s what the clouds look like, with the wind arrows laid over the top.
Here’s the metric which the British are most obsessed with. With the winter we’re just emerging from, I’m getting a bit obsessed with it too.
Wave height is an unusual feature to see in a weather map. It’s handy for surfers or anyone who might go into or over the sea. Oddly, the zoomed out view makes it look like the South-West of England has been washed away, even by fairly small waves.
Weatherbomb Wave Height
Finally, here’s the zoomed in version. This is as close as you can get.
Oddly, this app is said to be in beta. That’s a rather over used term these days. It even comes with a safety warning! Why is everyone so frightened of litigation? Who’s going to court saying, “I want money because I got wet when I didn’t think it was going to rain.”
Originally, you couldn’t zoom in at all. I left a review saying I would give it more stars if they added zoom and they did! Here’s the developer’s video.
The Brighton Official Visitor City Guide is the essential visitor guide to Brighton & Hove, England.
Developed by VisitBrighton, the city’s official tourism department, the app contains all the essential information you need to make the most of a trip to the city; it’s like having a mini-guidebook in your phone.
With sections covering Things to See & Do, Food & Drink, What’s On, Where to Stay and Shopping the app contains listings for hundreds of businesses, which each include an image, full description, opening times, admission prices, location and complete contact details including email and web links where appropriate.
The Brighton Official Visitor City Guide also contains information on the “city villages” that make up Brighton & Hove and suggested itineraries covering different themes, giving you the opportunity to explore areas that most visitors don’t know about.
The app also includes a ‘Favourites’ functionality enabling you to build up your own personalised itinerary of places to visit, restaurants to dine at and things to do during your trip.
Pointless page on VisitBrighton app
Cutting straight to the chase of how to enjoy Brighton, begs the question of how to swiftly find what’s happening, where and when, with some costings thrown in or a map of how to get to or away your home for the night. This app seeks to serve all that up in one handy tool. Commercial sponsorship of the town’s economy. Note, town, not the city Brighton & Hove now is. Opened the app presents the Android owner with a pointless tap-through screen. Thereafter, there is the basic menu: Food & Drink, What’s On, See & Do, Where To Stay, Shopping, City Villages, Essentials, Itineraries. Each one of these categories (a whole page) loads a submenu. Each submenu has type and location filters type and location to narrow searches. Each listing has detailed information about its official address, hours, prices, whatevers, including phone numbers, email and links to its website, a nice little photograph and a heart sign.
The heart sign notes your interest in some place and stores it on the last main menu item, the neatly named Itineraries. Its filter doesn’t go by place and price, but by thematic times to be had: by the name ‘Ideas’ ~ My Itinerary, 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, Family, Gay & Lesbian, Green, as if they follow in sequence with your own rough ideas to start with, then the suggestion that you might spend an entire 24 hours in town. From 24, to 48 and then, wahey, make a weekend of it. It’s a sales strategy but also, perchance something more. The list continues to imply that instead of just visiting you have your family here. You live amongst us. Asylum seekers from London (a suburb of Brighton anyway, to be fair) constantly driving up houseprices or holding them up harder in hard times. Thanks for that. After living amongst us, what is the logical progression? That’s right, you will go queer. However after that you will be a committed Greenie, saving the planet and your conscience along the way.
Just a map, nothing more
All this is fine, assuming you need an app at all for it ~ I’ll come to this point later but it needs to be said here. It’s somewhat clunky. It’s all big pictures and extra screens to pop through, as if we read full screen pictures faster that icons and text. On my Samsung Galaxy S2, which loads every other app, instantaneously it spends a little while loading. Although everything is beautifully mapped, making use of Google’s mapping technology, you can’t switch through that to using your Google accounts directions tool or address book or whatever. The point being that it means you have to go another app in order to use this tool with the rest of your phone. In a worst case scenario you’re thrown back onto a paper map. Just imagine.
That said, I’m a fussy appreciator. Sorry about that. If your elderly rellies were coming to Brighton or you spend all day long on Facebook and don’t know how the actual internet really works or you’re an Iphone user (see below, as mentioned above) who popped down to the seaside for a day and now are getting loved up by our town, then this might be your rescue guide to the galaxy we’ve got lined up for you, most of which is, of course, not yet contained in this app anyway, I bet. Doubtless the content is kept up to date, so far as is humanely possible but it will change
Food & Drink submenu: 75 venues
What’s On: 13 listings
See & Do, 60+ venues
Where to stay 60+ venues
Shopping: about 50 shops.
Essentials: in sequence, a variety of suggested itineraries, helpful links and numbers, parking information and the like, followed by seven podcasts. Oddly, even though I’m reviewing the Android version the podcasts can only be downloaded with Apple’s Itunes Store. Here’s an app to make Apple’s shop work on Google’s phone. Somewhere in here. I can’t be bothered to rummage for it. The whole thing is ridiculous. Why can’t we just download it from the council as a simple MP3? Frightened we’re going to nick it. Come off it.
City Villages: a neat way of summing up that Brighton & Hove (for that matter) is often called one big village but in fact it is a cluster of villages. This was, historically true as much as it is culturally now. The app calls them 13 in number.
Seven Dials cannot be photographed?
They all have some justification as being worth visiting in themselves but one of them is impossible to photograph prettily. Regular readers will recall my video tutorial on how to walk directly across the quirky roundabout at the heart of Seven Dials. Truth is its a great area but impossible to photograph diplomatically without considerable effort. I’d have pitched for an aerial shot. The City Council’s app solved the problem by simply not bothering with a picture at all, leaving us with an ugly white space and the words “No Images Available”. Makes the app look unfinished. Perhaps these spaces (there are others) will be updated soon?
Size of listings. What’s On certainly underpopulated, as is Where To Stay and Shopping. In the legendary North Laine, there are over 300 shops. That’s just one part of town. Most unconventionally, See & Do advertises places away from Brighton. The very first item in the list is the Ashdown Forest Llama Park, well over 20 miles away.
Concept re Iphone & Android
Skip this paragraph if you can’t stand learning about phones and the internet. Basically, Apple make its customers use an app for all sorts of things which could just be mobile web pages. The problem began with the late Steve Jobs deciding that Flash, which was used to encode much of the video on the web, could not appear on iphones because it was a security risk. The perceived risk was that using Flash, which is capable of interactive programming as well as making graphics move, someone else could set up an alternative itunes shop and sell apps to you, instead of Apple. Mr Jobs couldn’t have that, which proves he was a control freak, a ruthless businessman and a coward of competition. Google’s Android phones have taken the opposite approach, by allowing Flash and allowing their users to accept apps which do not appear in their app shop, now confusingly called Play. Add to the mix the fact that Android was late to the party and the upshot is that people have become accustomed to use an app. This entire app, which simply must have introduced an extra layer of updating, could be binned in favour of surfing Brighton online.
Notwithstanding the fact that they should be sold in the Early Learning Centre rather than to adults as useful tools, Iphones are used by their owners in such a way that an app like this is necessary. The insistence that the podcasts are downloaded from an itunes account, reinforces this notion on Androiders. Weather app? Met office online. Rail times app? Rail times online. Find a hotel app? Any search engine, online. I could go on and on but that’s the point. Only one app is needed for hundreds of the most commonly uses for phones. A browser to surf the net properly. This is really an app for owners of Apple’s iphone. It’s best suited to our elderly relatives or friends who you don’t want to spend that with. You could recommend it to them and fuck off for the weekend.
After weeks of twitchy excitement from techie lawyers like myself, fervent curiosity from geeks and total indifference from Joe Public, an American civil court case between Apple & Samsung has now ended. Both companies were suing each other for infringements of patents and cash (Of course!), in relation to so-called smart phones. The US jury had 33 issues to decide and was expected to spend some time in deliberation before pronouncing its verdicts. Instead, a couple hours later it returned to say that it rejected every one of Samsung’s claims and agreed with almost all of Apple’s case and none of Samsung’s. Then it awarded Apple more than $1Bn in damages (it had asked for $2.5Bn). The money won’t matter to Samsung. The reputational damage might.
The real reason the late Steve Jobs launched this litigation against Samsung was because of the success of another company altogether – Google. Google’s mobile platform, Android, has been a runaway success. It directly competes with the Iphone in clever ways: it is free to use and open source, which allows the phone manufacturers to concentrate on what they do best – make phones – safe in the knowledge that they need not spend a penny on their firmware. Google updates each generation of the source code but independent coders dramatically improve it (Cyanogen is the best all rounder, though some specialistroms are better for certain devices), with the result that all the groovy tech people use Android with some customised firmware. The Iphone increasingly looks like the phone that you buy if you’re scared of learning. There’s lots of people in that boat but Jobs wanted everyone to get on board. By suing Samsung for the look and feel of some of its mobile products, Jobs sought to warn it and other firms away from Android.
The look and feel of any Android phone has got very little to do with Android. Android is an operating system and can be dressed up any which way you want. Android isn’t going to collapse as a rival to the Iphone because of this case. It is far too commercially useful to far too many companies for that to happen. In that sense, Jobs’ case was misconceived. Some of the US jury’s decisions in the case are as amusing as they reveal how far patent law has been allowed to develop.
Clearly it has gone far too far. Now we are told, by this verdict, that Apple owns rectangles with rounded corners on mobile devices. This is absurd. It is also a red rag not just to the hacker community but also to anyone who cares about the free internet. Apple have taken the concept of a locked down universe to the nth degree. You can choose any colour so long as they approve it. You can have any shape so long as Apple get paid for it. The internet and all its attendant freedom could not have come into being had Apple been a big player in the project early on. Luckily for us, they couldn’t run their own business properly back then. Apple stands against other companies or people playing around with ideas, concepts or technologies. If you have an Apple in your pocket, perhaps now is the time you might want to think about which company you support with your cash. Even back in the day when we all complained about Microsoft attempting to dominate the internet, they didn’t go this far.
We’ve long expected the innovation of the early part of the digital revolution to give way to litigation. The same commercial curve happened with the industrial revolution. To begin with the various inventors and their companies were running around inventing new stuff. When the pace of creation began to slow, they set about suing each other for cheating. In other words, there’s always more money to be made in making the world a better place but if you can’t do that, you can make more money by stopping someone else from doing it either, possibly.
This is just the beginning. There’s a wave of big cases coming between the giant firms involved in mobile technology. Then there’ll be bigger waves behind that. Most of this litigation will be settled out of court. Most of it will be pointless.
The point is that we have long proved to ourselves that people will do what they want, regardless of what big companies tell us. When electricity was first invented, it was used to power light bulbs. Electrical supply companies created sockets for light bulbs. Other companies came along and created other devices which plugged into these sockets and, well, there were fires… … and governments introduced Wiring Regulations. A British inventor created the pocket calculator but a Japanese company improved it. What someone makes, someone else will better. We just can’t help ourselves. Apple’s shortsighted action will now provoke us to make jokes at its expense everywhere. It will become the bogeyman of the internet age. (Microsoft executives are reportedly having a late breakfast this morning.)
Like McDonald’s, every product from Apple is the same. Everything does what it says on the tin but none of them are wholesome, nutritious or helpful to the wider community. Like McDonald’s it will now find itself at the centre of a last shit storm of popular activism. This will not happen overnight. Muggles will continue to buy Apple products, just as McDonald’s ‘restaurants’ are often full. Yet, the trouble will come and it won’t go away. The world’s love affair with the shiny products that Jobs made has already waned a little. Now we’ll see it descend into a slow terminal decline. There were two reasons for Apple’s extraordinary success: beautiful products which worked straight out of the box and a devotional customer base. Loads of products from all sorts of companies pass the first test now. Apple’s benchmark has been bettered. The devotional customer base cannot survive when the base includes everyone. We can’t all get into the same boat.
Some time ago my SGS2 developed a problem. It would not turn off. Given the heavy use I put my phone too, this was a serious problem. A little reading online, revealed that this was a fairly common problem, now emerging with this particular device. The problem seemed to stem from corrosion in the USB port. Further research revealed that both my phone company and Samsung would regard the issue as one caused by me, because it related to water penetration, even though I have been fastidious in keeping it dry. That meant I would have to pay for the repair! The fact is that the corrosion has been caused by atmospheric moisture.
Then I discovered this video, showing how to replace the USB port:
I bought a replacement USB port (£7.50) and the screwdrivers etc., from ebay (£2.50), watched the video again, took a deep breath and went to work.
First of all, I removed the back plate of the phone:
Inside a Samsung Galaxy S II
Then I popped out all the ribbon cables and unscrewed all the inner screws. Unfortunately I lost one of these little screws. I find it hard to believe that this caused the later problems. There just isn’t that much room inside this phone. Everything must be tightly packed together.
The blue PCB at the bottom of the phone is the bit that needed removing. It was glued in but a little teasing lifted it up:
Samsung Galaxy S II with USB port being replaced.
After a bit of fiddling around, I got the new port board into place and put the whole thing back together. I’m pleased to report that this cured the problem! However, while testing the phone, I discovered that I someone at the other end of the line could no longer hear me properly unless I used speaker phone. The inconvenience of that however was far outweighed by the camera not working properly. I only got this phone because of the amazing camera. I am now officially annoyed. Let this be a salutory lesson to all other newbie phone repairers!
For what it’s worth, my phone is rooted and I’ve flashed a different rom onto it: CyanogenMod-7.1.0. That’s not caused the problem though, I did that ages ago. Actually, I did that within an hour of getting the phone! A few days ago my Samsung Galaxy S started malfunctioning. I uninstalled recently installed apps but the problem persisted. These were the problems:
screen flickering when charger plugged in
charger sometimes not being recognised as supplying power
battery indicator jumping around to more or less random indication levels
not switching off properly but instead showing the battery indicator permanently, with a yellow warning triangle and a little image of a thermometer superimposed on that, as shown in the following video:
I phoned my mobile phone company (Three) and their technical support took the usual approach of repeating everything I said but altering its meaning slightly, with the result that what should have been a five minute call took half an hour. The fellow at the other end of the phone claimed that he had never heard of the fault before. Three’s proposed remedies involved either sending the phone back to them for a physical repair (Which was going to cost between £30 & £90. Unless I refused the repair, in which case it would cost me £20. It is still under warranty!) or performing a factory reset.
I should mention that I am fastidious in looking after my phone. It never gets wet. I’ve never dropped it and it hasn’t received any impact trauma either.
I read various threads which suggested that there was a hardware fault with the USB port. Various people suggested that their phone had “magically” cured itself. That is, of course, impossible, unless water penetration had been the cause of their problems. Several people said that they had cured the problem by cleaning their USB port. Others proposed physically moving it, either “up” or “down”. The consensus seemed to be “down”. Then I saw the following video guidance, which is very tempting.
I’m going to record all the steps I’ve taken here in this post. First, I backed up all my apps and data with Titanium Backup. The free version is good enough to perform that crucial job. Next, just in case, I’m going to perform a factory reset.
The factory reset completed. The first thing to do is download Titanium Backup from the Android Market, sorry Google Play, grr what a silly rebranding exercise. With that, I can restore all my apps. First I have to allow applications from unknown sources (Menu – Settings – Applications – Unknown Sources: ticked!). Next is a batch process under Titanium Backup: “Restore all apps with data”. The tell tale sign is that this has the largest number next to it. This process takes each app in turn. The phone asks whether I want to install each one. I make some individual decisions not to install certain apps, stuff I don’t use any more. Silly games and the like. Chess is the only game worth playing, clearly.
As I suspected, this did not cure the problem. Next up, I think I should try to clean out the USB port somehow… I will report back…
I’ve hacked my phone. I didn’t personally write the computer code which allowed me to do that. Why would I? It is already written. The hackers who worked out how to do it simply published the instructions online for free. Allow me to explain. If you want the really technical details, follow the links. For everyone else, just read on. If you aren’t at all technically minded, there may some passages with jargon you are unfamiliar with but don’t worry, I keep this explanation fairly simple.
Phone hacking has been much in the news recently. The phrase has been coined by journalists to describe other journalists from obtaining access to other people’s voicemail. The technique is remarkably simple. Your mobile phone’s voicemail will activate when it is called by your number. To spy on someone else’s mobile voicemail, all you have to do is phone their number from their number. To do that, specialist software is available online, which allows you to declare what number you are making the call from. The spies just type in their target’s number and bingo! I would have called this activity “spying”. Journalists do not like to use a nice old fashioned word when a more frightening one is available. Over many years the established media has run scare stories about computer hackers. They have distorted the original meaning of the word so much that they have given it a second meaning. Having whipped up a fear of hackers, they now use this word pejoratively whenever they can.
Hacking is actually quite an old word, which has obtained several meanings. Here goes:
Cut with rough or heavy blows.
Ride a horse for pleasure or exercise.
A contentious term used in computing for several types of person
Techies call the person who circumvents a computer security system a cracker. Journalists prefer not to educate their readers so rather than use the word cracker, they just call them hackers even though hackers actually do something different. There are two types of computer hacker. Firstly, there are those who make innovative customizations or combinations of retail electronic and computer equipment and, secondly, there are those who share an anti-authoritarian approach to software development now associated with the free software movement. The established media are terrified of people discovering the last group of people because they help undermine the proprietary systems which make so much money. These vested interests have much in common with the privately owned media. There’s no need to be a conspiracy theorist about this. This is well established fact.
My new phone was delivered on Tuesday: a Samsung Galaxy S II (SGS2). It’s a beautiful piece of kit. I followed these instructions from CyanogenMod which taught me how to install a customized aftermarket firmware distribution onto my new phone. In other words a new operating system made by hackers! This operating system is open source which means that anyone can download the computer code, examine it and modify it. Open Source software is always free.
Despite knowing that mobile network companies’ warranties do not allow this sort of carry on, Samsung actually sent one of their first SGS2s to the CyanogenMod hacking crew (there are about 45 of them at the moment, producing open source firmware for dozens of devices). The physical architecture of the SGS2 is impressive. We might need capitalist companies to make these devices but we need socialists to make them work better. Hackers are effectively socialists: they give what they can and share it with anyone who feels the need.
Before and after a hacker changed the operating system (results not from my SGS2)
On Wednesday, after a busy day working for the legal team at Occupy London, I was relaxing in the evening in a City pub. One of my fellow Occupationists had also just obtained the SGS2. His phone was running on the operating system provided via his phone company. This is called a stock rom. We both downloaded the same benchmarking software from the Android Market: Quadrant (the standard edition). A benchmarking app performs a series of technical tests on your phone and produces a score. My phone tore through the tests visibly quicker than my friend’s but the real proof was in the score. My SGS2 now scores 3,314 which was a little over 10% higher than my friend’s. That is proof that the open source operating system I have installed on my phone performs significantly better than the stock roms.
As well as wanting the best operating system for my new phone, I also wanted root access so that I could install apps which allow me extra freedom. Having sold you the phone the mobile network wish to save themselves the hassle of dealing with you after you from mistakenly turn your phone into poor quality paperweight by deleting files that you wouldn’t normally have access to. Root access gives you access to every part of the file system on the phone. I wasn’t entirely sure whether Cyanogen’s instructions gave root access or just changed the operating system so I followed some other instructions to obtain root access first. In particular I use the Titanium Backup, Rom Manager and the incredible SetCPU, all of which are free.
This week a scandal broke in America: 41 million mobile phones were revealed to have embedded software called Carrier IQ. This software was hidden from the user, who does not have root access and cannot see the source code for the operating system used on their phones. The software is apparently used to assist the mobile networks in gathering information about when apps crash on phones. The scandal relates to independent research which says that the software can also record lots of other information about how the phone is used. The most pressing concern is that it can record keystrokes, which means that phone user’s passwords and other confidential information could have been conveyed to the mobile networks. Trevor Eckhart made the discovery.
This week Wikileaks has revealed the full extent of industrial surveillance around the world. It is massive. Julian Assange announced at a press conference two days ago that if you use an Iphone, a blackberry or gmail you are “screwed”. Wikileaks says, “Mass interception of entire populations is not only a reality, it is a secret new industry spanning 25 countries It sounds like something out of Hollywood, but as of today, mass interception systems, built by Western intelligence contractors, including for ’political opponents’ are a reality.” I dare say that they’ve got my number but luckily they do not have my behavioural metrics because CyanongenMod have confirmed that Carrier IQ will never be included in their open source operating system. They can’t lie about this because all of their source code is public. The moral of this story is that we need the hackers to prevent the spies.
As explained yesterday, this week Tuesday actually comes after Wednesday. Outside of this blog the days of the week carry on as normal but owing to rush of political blood to my head, I’ve muddled up these two days. After today, be assured, everything will be back to normal.
On 6th September, I flashed a new rom onto my Samsung Galaxy S. Everything seemed okay at first but then it went horribly wrong with various services refusing to synchronise with their servers. Mainly google servers, which was a little irritating. The phone became positively temperamental. I did a bit more reading and found this page, which implied that DarkyRom 10.2 was not entirely stable.
I decided to upgraded to DarkyRom 10.2.2 and followed the instructions on that page by downloading the zip file to my computer, transferring it over to my phone’s internal SD card and then flashing it from recovery mode. Bingo! This time I am convinced that everything is working beautifully.
The first time you reflash a phone it is quite scary. The second time it feels a bit like offering to look after a pub, a great idea which could go badly wrong. By the third time, it is becoming a minor inconvenience. As ever, the trick is to read stuff. Time for a benchmark test methinks. For those of you who don’t know, a benchmark is a standard piece of software which tests various aspects of a machine’s performance. Quadrant tests CPU power, memory, database writes, 2D graphics and 3D graphics. Then it shows the results as a bar chart against the stock roms of the phone you’re using. Here’s the bar chart after it had tested my Samsung Galaxy S running on DarkyRom 10.2.2, which is allegedly the last rom Darky will be doing…
One man often talks another off his bench and seats himself upon it.
That’s my phone at the top there (click on the image to expand it). My phone with Samsung’s rom is 6th from the bottom. Pretty clear that Darky and crew know some stuff which Samsung don’t huh?
Something went awry with the formatting of today’s post. Apologies. Haven’t got time to sort it out. Here’s a list of the apps I use on my android phone (a Samsung Galaxy S i9000), which is rooted. That means that I have obtained privileged control (“root access”) into Android’s Linux subsytem. The advantage of rooting is that you can overcome limitations that mobile phone companies and even the phone’s manufacturer puts onto the device. Rooting voids the warranty but so long as you are careful there shouldn’t be a problem with that. There are no moving parts and if the phone was functioning properly before rooting, it will function properly after rooting. Here’s the full instructions to root your Samsung Galaxy S i9000 with a one-click procedure (You can unroot it too!). It’s easy but I’m bound to say, I’m not responsible for anything that goes wrong. Just sharing information here.
Here’s the apps I use. All are free, unless stated otherwise.
Read PDF documents on your phone. Plenty websites provide information in the form of a download in PDF format, presumably because this makes it harder for you to copy the information and paste it elsewhere. For example, Brighton & Hove Buses provide timetables in PDF format. I’ve downloaded the PDFs for the routes I use, so that I don’t need a network connection to find out what time the bus is coming.
A game loosely based on Aristotlean chemistry. You start with four elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Beautiful graphics – real eye candy. Dragging the elements together creates new elements. The fun is in discovering which combines with which and chuckling at the humour employed. There are 380 elements in all. I haven’t made it as far as Skyscrapers yet…
Somewhat embarassingly, I confess to still using blogger. I always recommend WordPress to people wanting to create a blog. However, I’m a member of a very old blog whose other members prefer the blogger set up. This app makes it easier to post to that blog on the move. You can publish posts with pictures, labels and location information. View the list of posts and if you have multiple accounts or blogs, you can easily switch between them.
Create, edit, upload and share your documents. You can also read the documents already stored in your Google Documents account. Edits to your documents appear to collaborators in seconds. Make quick changes to spreadsheets. Upload and convert files to the Google Docs format. Take a photo of printed text and convert it to a Google document. Share docs with your phone’s contacts.
This is a must have app for any touch screen device. I use it every day. It wipes out the need to search through indexes. Quickly find a contact, a bookmark, an application, or a music track on your device by drawing on the screen. Search results are updated as you add each letter or digit and becomes better by learning from your search history.
Search the real world by taking a picture. Goggles uses image recognition technology to recognize objects and return relevant search results. Identifies products, famous landmarks, storefronts, artwork, and popular images found online. Goggles can translate words in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese & Russian. Can extract contact information from business cards.
Turns your phone into a window to the night sky. Beautiful. For the first time, using this app, I was able to locate constellations properly and know which stars where in them and which were not. Even better, you can identify planets in the sky. Don’t use it much but when I do, it’s a real pleasure.
A platform style game that broke into marine territory. Great fun. When you’ve exhausted its complicated challenge, there is Hungry Shark Part 2 & 3 to enjoy, which successfully ramp up the difficulty.
I use this a lot. It’s brilliant. Record and share your GPS tracks, including statistics.Use My Tracks while you run, bike, hike, or do anything else outdoors, and it will use the GPS sensor in your phone to record the path you took. It will also gather useful statistics such as time, speed, distance, and elevation. You can review all of this data live, or you can save it for use later. While you’re out, you can mark relevant waypoints, and can ask to hear automatic voice announcements about your progress.
Very useful. Fifteen years ago a NatWest bank manager pushed credit on me like a drug dealer. He said, “You’re a barrister, I trust you. You want £6,000 but I’m going to give you £10,000″. Trouble was he wasn’t giving me the money he was lending it. This huge overdraft facility got me into the way of debt. I failed to manage my money properly for, well, fifteen years after that. Until I got this app. Now I religiously put all my income and expenditure into this app and keep on top of everything. It allows tracking of expense/income transactions for multiple budgets. Features include: multiple budgets, expense/income tracking, fully customizable categories, transaction editor, customizable data filtering, budget reporting, a simple user interface, database backup/restore and export to csv.
The ultimate file manager for root users. Access the whole of android’s file system (including the elusive data folder!). Features include SQLite database viewer, Text Editor, create and extract zip or tar/gzip files, extract rar archives, multi-select, execute scripts, search, remount, permissions, bookmarks, send files (via email, bluetooth etc), image thumbnails, APK binary XML viewer, change file owner and group.
£1.25. A must have app for a rooted phone. Alone it justifies rooting your phone.
]SetCPU is a tool for changing the CPU settings (capable of overclock and underclock). SetCPU also allows you to set up powerful profiles to change the CPU speed under certain conditions, such as when the phone is asleep or charging, when the battery level drops below a certain point, when the phone’s temperature is too high, or during certain times of day. See the screenshots for examples of how you might set up profiles. A wide feature set make it useful to beginners and enthusiasts alike. Accelerate your processor to unleash your phone’s multitasking potential, or dial your CPU’s speed down to save battery. It also includes a “voltage control” menu, for use with certain devices with custom kernels that support it, to control undervolting to save even more battery. Keep in mind that undervolting is only available for certain kernels.
£5.19. Non-serious chess players will baulk at the price and point out that there are other chess apps available for free. They’re rubbish! Once you know something about the beautiful game, these apps become easy to beat. They also lack the features the serious player needs.
You can play against Shredder, analyze with him and solve chess puzzles. It offers the usual Shredder standard for your pocket. In addition to the outstanding playing strength of the 13 times computer chess world champion, Shredder is also able to mimic the play of a human chess player with any playing strength. He even deliberately makes typical human mistakes in those levels.
Solve 1000 built in chess puzzles. Shredder keeps track of your performance and offers advice if needed.
You can adjust Shredder’s playing strength from beginner to master level. If you like, Shredder automatically adjusts his strength to yours. He even calculates an Elo rating for you. This is how the playing strength of chess players is typically measured.
* Adjustable playing strength
* Intuitive and very easy to operate
* 1000 built in chess puzzles
* Rates your play
* Outstanding playing strength
* Simulates opponent of any strength
* Analyse your games with Shredder, find your mistakes and improve your play
* Coach shows your mistakes
* Great variety with built-in opening book
* Enter and analyze any position you like
* Load and save games (incl. names, date, etc.)
* Import and export games in PGN format
* Different chess boards and pieces
* Improve your play whenever and wherever you like
This isn’t a copy of the world famous book by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, in which he demonstrates why more equal societies almost always do better. Please read it! This is a builder’s spirit level and very useful too.
Swype is crucial for touchscreen phones. Vastly speeds your ability to type. Watch this video. I make no apology for furthering the hype about this incredible development. The only differences between the way I use it and the way they use it in the video is that I am much faster and I use my thumb.
Watching people’s reactions is fun. Here’s a comparison with an old-style touch screen text interface, the iphone:
Still not convinced. Think they were fiddling the test. You can take my word for it. Swype is faster is faster than physical buttons and I type fast.
This is not available from the Android Market. The link above goes to Swype’s own site, which gives full instructions on how to set swype up on your phone. Some android phones come with it pre-installed. Mine did. Then I got rid of it by flashing a stripped down rom (DarkyRom 10.2 Extreme Edition) onto the device, which meant I had to get swype.
Does away with the tedious business of checking twitter and facebook separately. Since it was recently bought by Google, it is a shame that it doesn’t also integrate with Google+. Methinks commercial strategy has come into play… essentially it is a social networks browser for twitter, facebook, foursquare and buzz. It works like a dream, can be tweaked nicely with the result that it needn’t drain your battery too much.
The standard android power control widget only has 5 toggles and is not customisable. Widgetsoid has over 40 toggles. You choose how many you want your power control to have and where on the widget you want them to be. A must have app.
Write new posts, edit content, and manage comments on your WordPress blog. WordPress for Android is an Open Source app that empowers you to write new posts, edit content, view stats, and manage comments with built-in notifications. WordPress for Android supports both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress (2.9.2 or higher) blogs.
Iphone owners will be wondering why I haven’t included various apps they depend on, like YouTube. The reason is that there’s no need for these apps on android – we can just watch Flash videos without a special app. Apple won’t let you have Flash technology on your iphone because it could allow an alternative app market to come into being. Instead of competing in an open market, Apple wants to control your wallet completely…
This post has been amended on the same day it was originally posted.
Following my post this morning about the multi-platform android flashing tool Heimdall (an open source alternative to Odin for Windows), here’s my report on what happened when I tried to reflash my phone. As attentive readers will know, I use a Samsung Galaxy S i9000. Previous to today I was not using Samsung’s stock rom, preferring instead Darky’s Rom 9.3. The aim this morning was to upgrade to Darky’s Extreme Edition 10.2, which is based on Android Gingerbread 2.3.4. Gingerbread is most up to date version of Android. It is blazingly fast on the Galaxy S. If there’s time today, I’ll be running some benchmark tests to see how the phone performs but first let me explain the day’s excitement because my journey to Gingerbread has not been without fear.
Please note, that all that follows requires a rooted android phone. Root access allows you to do wonderful things to your phone. Chances are that the phone you got from the phone company is not rooted. There’s plenty of explanations of how to root phones online. This post is not concerned with the business of rooting your phone. I’ll deal with that another day. For now, you’ll have to read up on that elsewhere.
Odin began life as the software used by Samsung to put their firmware onto their phones (that link is to Odin 1.3). Some sneaky employee leaked it to the wild. This allowed hackers to put alternative roms onto the Galaxy S. Many of these rom developers complained that Odin was ropey. Thus Heimdall was developed. This took some time because, as you would expect, Odin was not open source. It had to be reverse engineered. This challenge was overcome and Heimdall is by all accounts better than Odin. Naturally, it is free. I followed my own advice and read and read and read. I learnt quite a bit and when I was I sure that I was ready, I set Heimdall up on my machine, which runs Ubuntu 11.04 (a version of linux).
Next I used a very useful android app called Titanium Backup. This app lets you take a backup of all your apps and data and store them on your external SD card. Backing up everything is a batch process, which is an option you can reach by looking at the general menu settings in Titanium Backup. Titanium Backup is free, by the way.
I use ADW Launcher for my home screens. This changes the way the phone’s interface behaves. It’s much better and more user friendly than the standard method. I saved the home screens configuration via the phone’s general settings.
Then I downloaded Darky’s Rom 10.2 Extreme Edition to my machine. This is where things started to go awry. I was sure that I followed the instructions on this page. Except that clearly I couldn’t have done because careful reading of that page reveals that it relates to a tarball and not a zip file. Also it deals with Darky’s Rom 10.1, not 10.2. With computing attention to detail is everything. Heimdall failed to transfer the files properly and my phone seemed to freeze. After about 30 minutes I took the battery out and turned the phone back on. Uh oh, I got this screen, which I had never seen before:
Black screen of death
This did not look good. Of course, I did not know that it was the so-called Black Screen of Death. Discovering its name was an ugly moment. I went to tell my wife that I had bricked my phone. She asked what that meant. I explained that it meant that my phone was now of very limited value: it was as about as useful as a small plastic brick. That familiar sinking feeling, which accompanies all those moments when I’ve authored my own misfortune, came flooding in. I kept reading.
A light appeared in the shape of the information that it was sometimes possible to get back from the Black Screen of Death. I kept the faith. I pressed and held together Volume Down, Home and Power. I waited. After a few seconds the screen went completely black. I released the Power button. Bingo! The Downloading Screen appeared… I was saved, according to the literature. Keeping my phone plugged in, I read furiously. Somewhere I read that another Ubuntu user had had the same experience. He speculated that he hadn’t set Heimdall up properly on his machine. He thought that he had been tweaking his machine a bit too much. Hey, I’ve done that, I thought.
I decided to proceed on safe ground only. I didn’t want a bricked phone. I dug out an old Windows XP laptop. I downloaded Odin 1.3. There are later versions but the instructions I had found related to 1.3. I followed the instructions on this page slavishly. Odin sprang into life. It was immediately obvious that something positive was happening. When my phone rebooted successfully, I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Success! One more reboot and all my home screen icons came back.
Titanium Backup brought back all my apps without the tedious business of having to download them again. I restored my home screens. Now for some benchmarking tests….
… actually that flashing was completely buggered. I sloped off to an appointment, came back, stopped at the chip shop and had another go with my Ubuntu machine. This time I slavishly followed the instructions on this page and it seemed to work…
… next I went to the Swype website to obtain a beta copy of that groovy touchscreen input system, which blows tapping a shiny screen out of the water. Okay, bad analogy I know – these things don’t do well in water. Swype beta installed perfectly.
Now I’m wondering whether the problems I had before related to backing up system data from a previous version of Android. The market seems to be working okay. The power widget is working okay. Perhaps it is time to leave it alone for tonight… famous last words… it is blisteringly fast too…
Some android apps are restricted to certain countries or regions. This is usually due to licensing issues with third parties. A good example is Google Music. You can only sign up for Google Music by fooling Google into thinking that you live in America. This can be done via a proxy. To then enjoy Google Music on your android phone, you’ll need the Google Music app. To get the app, you’ll need to be stateside too or spoof yourself as if you were.
The trick is to get an app from the android market called Market Enabler. This allows you to spoof your location and mobile carrier network to the market. It will give you a list of countries to spoof as. When you reboot your phone or set it to airplane mode, the spoof will be turned off. Essentially what this app does is change the user agent details which your phone sends to the market.