CharlieV the Geek

The Don CharlieV Android Guide: #1: Starting to Explore

Disclaimer: These guides only reflect my personal choices and experience with Android. I am by no means an expert and do not wish that my guides be taken to heart, but only be used to enhance your own Android experience.

Feel free to share my guides or mention them wherever you wish and if you can give them a thumbs up on StumbleUpon. I also welcome any feedback and comments as it is my wish to make this a regular feature on my blog.

As mentioned in my previous post, I will start with those apps that are simple and easy to use. These apps have no setup required to get going. You simply download them and run them, for example, most games fall into this category.

No experience required.

Androsensor

 Androsensor
Category: Tools
Widget: No
Size: 500kb-1MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fivasim.androsensor
App Website: http://fivasim.pcriot.com/androsensor.html
This app displays all your phones sensor data on a single screen. Includes: location data, accelerometer, gyroscope, light readings, magnetic field, orientation,proximity, battery status& sound level. This may vary from phone to phone.

Angry Birds Seasons

 Angry Birds Seasons
Category: Games
Widget: No
Size: 20-25MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rovio.angrybirdsseasons
App Website: http://www.angrybirds.com/
The 3rd release of this popular game series. Updated from time to time, based on various world holidays and seasons…

Free and Paid versions available

Angry Birds Space

 Angry Birds Space
Category: Games
Widget: No
Size: 20-25MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rovio.angrybirdsspace.ads
App Website: http://www.angrybirds.com/
The latest, and possibly the greatest, of this series. The birds take to space in defence of their eggsteroids. The classic game with a new twist of gravity fields.Free and Paid versions available

Barcode Scanner

 Barcode Scanner
Category: Tools
Widget: No
Size: 500kb-1MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.zxing.client.android
App Website: http://code.google.com/p/zxing/
This app displays all your phones sensor data on a single screen. Includes: location data, accelerometer, gyroscope, light readings, magnetic field, orientation,proximity, battery status& sound level. This may vary from phone to phone.

Cut The Rope

 Cut The Rope
Category: Games
Widget: No
Size: 15-20MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zeptolab.ctr.paid
App Website: http://www.cuttherope.ie/
Feed your creature, Om Nom, by cutting the ropes holding the candy. Very addictive…

Free and Paid versions available

Tiny Flashlight + LED

 Tiny Flashlight
Category: Tools
Widget: Yes, flashlight on or off without opening the app
Size: 1-5MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.devuni.flashlight
App Website: http://devuni.com/cgi-sys/defaultwebpage.cgi
I prefer this specific flashlight app because of it’s versatility. It also functions as a flashlight, flashes in morse code, acts as an emergency traffic beacon and more…

Fruit Ninja

 Fruit Ninja
Category: Games
Widget: No
Size: 15-20MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.halfbrick.fruitninja
App Website: http://www.fruitninja.com/
Slash fruit to bits using your finger as the sword. Addictive!

Free and Paid versions available

Google Sky Map

 Sky Map
Category: Reference
Widget: No
Size: 1-5MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.stardroid
App Website: http://groups.google.com/group/google-sky-map
Uses the GPS and other phone sensors to identify stars, star systems, planets, etc that youre pointing the phone at. It also guides you in the right direction of what you’re looking for.

Osmos

 Osmos
Category: Games
Widget: No
Size: 15-20MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hemispheregames.osmos
App Website: http://www.hemispheregames.com/osmos/
Really trippy and VERY hypnotising game. Simply the best way to unwind… Works especially well with headphones. Somehow the hours just float by…

Demo and Paid versions available…

Pricecheck

 PriceCheck
Category: Shopping
Widget: No
Size: 1-5MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=mobile.pricecheck
App Website: http://www.pricecheck.co.za/
An app for South African users (I’m sure there are also international versions of this). Scans a barcode & searches for the product on their website’s database (http://www.pricecheck.co.za/) It then allows you to compare prices.

Shazam

 Shazam
Category: Music
Widget: Yes, features live tag stream and instant access to tag song.
Size: 1-5MB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.shazam.android
App Website: http://www.shazam.com/
“Listens” to whatever song is playing and searches for the Artist, Song title & more for you. Watch the YouTube video once tagged or download the MP3 from Amazon and more.

Swiss Army Knife

 Swiss Army Knife
Category: Tool
Widget: No
Size: 100-500KB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.digital_and_dreams.android.swiss_army_knife
App Website: http://www.digital-and-dreams.net/main/?page_id=38
This app includes a flashlight, ruler, timer, stop watch, compass, bubble level, calculator and magnifying glass, all lightweight and accessible on one screen.

Wikidroid

 Wikidroid
Category: Reference
Widget: No
Size: 100-500KB
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.isaacwaller.wikipedia
App Website: http://www.digital-and-dreams.net/main/?page_id=38
Not the only Wikipedia browser out there, but this one is quick & simple.

That’s it for this first part, 13 down, 37 to go, now just go play around with these for a while.


The Don CharlieV Android Guide: An Introduction

Android Robot. Français : le logo d'android 日本...

Disclaimer: These guides only reflect my personal choices and experience with Android. I am by no means an expert and do not wish that my guides be taken to heart, but only be used to enhance your own Android experience.

Feel free to share my guides or mention them wherever you wish and if you can give them a thumbs up on StumbleUpon. I also welcome any feedback and comments as it is my wish to make this a regular feature on my blog.

Android devices are pretty damn awesome, they can be as easy or as complicated as you’d like, and that is besides whatever reason you may have for liking yours. You can take them out of their box and they’ll work, but then you wouldn’t have enjoyed the full Android experience.

Once you start digging around in the Play Store (previously Market) you might be overwhelmed by what is available. Some apps work from the moment that they are downloaded, others need an account or some sort of setting up initially, others need some serious playing around with to really get the full enjoyment or out of them. You can go by with only looking at the free apps, most of my favourites are, but don’t ignore the paid apps, from $0.99 apps to the more expensive ones.

I have taken my Top 50 apps and have divided them into 3 groups which I will cover in 3 separate posts based on ease of use.

#1: Starting to Explore

Will cover the apps that just work from the moment you download them.

#2: Delving a Bit Deeper

These apps need either an account setup or require some input before they work.

#3: The point of No Return

Once you’ve reached this point, there is no going back, no other device will compare to your baby.

Beyond #3

From time to time, I’ll release an update on the newer apps I’ve found that deserve mention and update my list if I’ve found superior versions of the ones I’ve listed in my Top 50



Posts of Randomness #3: That’s How I Roll…

This morning while tidying my desk, I decided to power up all my PC’s and monitors that I have on my desk at work… It seemed the geeky thing to do, and while I was at it, took a photo and uploaded it on Facebook. I captioned it “This Is How I Roll”

This Is How I Roll...

This was followed up a few hours later by a colleague of mine captioned “And This Is How I Roll……”

And This Is How I Roll.....

Not long after this one, another colleague in the same branch, posted his follow up, captioned “And This Is How I Rollllll…..”

This setup included such wonders as wireless monitors, ability to solve Rubik’s cubes and special 3d monitors among other features.

And This Is How I Rolllll.....

I was just waiting for the next one, which came from another branch, but it was quite a funny turn, to my surprise

This is how I roll

Of course it didn’t end there and yet another colleague in another branch posted this one. This one seemed to end it all…

NO NO NO....this is how i roll. lol.


Which Smart-phone is King?

Article first published as Which Smart-phone is King? on Technorati.

Top Smartphones (WW)

Data Source: gartner.com

For months before I upgrade my mobile phone, I will sit and research all the current phones and phones due for release. Firstly, there is no doubt that it will be a smart-phone. According to Gartner, smart-phones accounted for 23.6% of all mobile phones sales in the first quarter of 2011, an increase of 85.6% year-on-year. Then it comes down to which of the major smart-phone OSes you support: Android, iOS, Blackberry OS, Windows Mobile, Palm or Symbian?

In the last two years or so, a lot has changed in the world of smart-phones as can be seen by the data available from Comscore and Gartner. If you analyse worldwide smart-phone sales from 2009 to present, things are very interesting indeed. In the days before Cupcake (version 1.5) and Donut (version 1.6), when the only Android phone was the HTC Dream (G1), in the first quarter of 2009, Android only had 1.6% of the world smart-phone market. By quarter one, a year later, in 2010, they were close to 10%, and had climbed above Microsoft and all the other OSes. Symbian, iOS and RIM were still the dominant players though. At this stage, Android phones coming out were on the Eclair (version 2.1) release of their OS and Froyo (2.2) was expected by quarter two of 2010. The only significant jump for the iOS was in quarter three of 2009 shortly after version 3.x of it’s OS was released in June 2009. By quarter three of 2010 though, there were two major changes visible in the sales of mobile phones, as both Android and iOS jumping above RIM and Android showing them both the way of things to come by jumping to the second spot, a massive 15.9% climb over 6 months. By the first quarter of this year, Android would be on it’s latest versions of OS, Gingerbread (version 2.3) for mobile phones and Honeycomb (3.0) for tablet devices.

Top Smartphones (US)

Source: comscore.com

Things aren’t much different if we look at the US smart-phone OS market. For some reason Comscore, who supply the data, don’t seem to consider Symbian to a smart-phone, not that I completely disagree, especially since Nokia have started going to Microsoft for their OS and Sony-Ericcson have been using Android for a while now on their smart-phones, but it would have been interesting to see nonetheless. Shortly after the first Android phones hit the market in 2009, the Android OS only had a market share of 2.5%. RIM was smiling with a market share of over 40%. I’m pretty sure they had no idea how things would change. Fast forward to May 2010 and Android had overtaken (or almost) the previous number three, Microsoft, and number four, Palm, who were losing market share quite consistently. They weren’t the only ones affected either, while Apple were idling along at around the 25% mark, RIM were just starting to lose grip. The trend continued for Android until sometime around November last year, when they overtook Apple for second place. By January this year, Microsoft and Palm were choking on their competitor’s fumes at 8% and 3.2% respectively. More importantly though, in less than two years, Android had grown to the point where it was the number one smart-phone OS in the US. I’m not the biggest fan of Blackberry or Symbian phones admittedly, so it’s no big loss, but with Android and Apple controlling close to two thirds of the smart-phone market in the US and dominating smart-phone sales worldwide (close to 60%), it’s going to take something drastic to change the way things are currently going. Maybe Nokia’s move from their now-archaic Symbian OS to the Windows 7 phone OS could do that? But then what about the rumours of the new iPhone 5/4S or even talk of the iPhone 6. You also cant ignore the fact that all-unifying version 4 of Android’s OS due out by the end of the year.

Android Logo

Image courtesy of dannysullivan on Flickr

One of Androids flaws as an open OS, is fragmentation. Manufacturers and operators, even those in the Open Handset Alliance, have, to be honest here, not kept the various phones out there properly up to date. In the case of the iPhone, each time a new version of iOS is released, you can upgrade most of the older iPhones to a newer version. In the case of iOS 5, previewed for developers in June 2011, if you own a iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, 3rd or 4th gen iPod or an iPad 1 or 2, you will be able to upgrade to the new version and that is all there is to it; one standard version with standard features across most devices still in use. If you have a HTC Dream (G1) or Hero (especially the GSm version), chances are you have some sorted of custom ROM on a “rooted” phone instead of an official update, which aren’t happening anymore. This is partly because the only option to keep your version of Android properly up to date is to “root” your phone and install a custom ROM, a modified version of the Android OS, which are community developed to give the option to those of us whose manufacturers don’t or never did release updates, to be able to enjoy the features of the newer versions. Why would you do this and aren’t there risks doing this? Read this guide for a better idea about rooting.

This will all hopefully change with Ice Cream Sandwich, version 4 of the Android OS. This is the version of Android that will hopefully standardise Android a bit. It won’t just be for phones either, the new version will work for tablets and computers as well. They have basically adapted the framework and by adding APIs will help developers optimize it for all various devices. The two most significant changes for me though so far are the following:

  • Google has made it’s founding members of the Open Handset Alliance agree to keep their phones up to date for at least 18 months, which gets you pretty close to your next upgrade. How it will be enforced and whether it will work are separate questions, but it’s an important step anyway. There is always rooting, but this isn’t the solution.
  • More exciting though is the Android Open Accessory feature. It is a set of APIs that allow 3rd party accessories, such as a training bike, sync data both ways with your device and automatically communicate with the correct app or link you to the correct app in the Market.

Check this article or this one for more info on Ice Cream Sandwich.

Forecast - Top Smartphone Sales (Yearly)

Source: gartner.com

It is still too early to choose the king of the smart-phones, it is still an extremely volatile market and it would be cocky for me to say that while the Android is currently dominating that it will in a year’s time, one only needs to look at RIM, in the US, or Symbian on a more global level, a couple of years back to know the top spot is highly sought after and us consumers are hard to please when it comes to our “whole-lives-in-our-pocket” smart-phones. If we are to believe Gartner, by 2014, Android will be close to Symbian on not only smart-phone sales, which if you recall now make up 23.6% of smart-phone sales, but of all mobile devices. I’m not completely convinced, but a geek can dream.

Authors note: This was my first article published on another website excluding my own blog and I’m quiet proud of that. 


Free Shit: An Update

About a month back, I decided to stop ignoring all the online competitions I saw around the web and started entering them like a crazy man.

On 20 June, I published a blog post on how to enter free online competitions and where to go to, such as winstuff.co.za, who post all the online competitions that they find for us…

I also told you about sites like Groupon and the rest and how they help you to get some major discounts, especially for eating out. Since then I also discovered a nice aggregator for all these sites – www.alldeals.co.za – which aggregates, or lists, all the deals from the many deal sites out there in one place, including online deals. You can also sign up to their daily email deal notifications.

More importantly though, yesterday I won my first competition and I have winstuff.co.za to thank for this as well. Not directly mind you, but through another competition they had linked to on the same site.

I won something that if you knew me, couldn’t be a better prize. It is a Philips BodyGroom which is pretty cool. But anyway, that’s not the point. I have been doing this for less than one month and it’s paid off already.

Tip: Take the time to setup your browser’s auto-complete feature. It is worth the initial setup time purely because of the amount of time it saves you in the long run.


How To Survive The Internet #3

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you” Kurt Cobain 

The internet is not always friendly. Just as an example: PhishTank reported that in April 2011, over 18000 phishes were reported, of which close to 15000 were verified. A quick peak around Shadowserver Foundation‘s Statistic pages will also give you an idea of just how unfriendly it can be.

With that in mind, part 3 is focused on being a bit more ninja-like on the net.

1) Tor Project

By using the Tor software you connect to it’s open network which helps you defend against any type of network surveillance. However like any technology, there are also the darker elements such as the Silk Road Marketplace and others, which are only accessible while on the onion network (the protocol which Tor uses). This topic would take an entire post on it’s own, so maybe I will one day, but for now go have a look for yourself.

Read more here, and download it here. The simplest is the browser bundle download, but it is easy enough to setup if you download the other bundles.

TIP: Use at your own risk, some ISPs aren’t too fond of Tor.

2) BugMeNot

If you hate spam as much as I do, this will make you very happy. BugMeNot allows you to use or share logins for sites that require you to register, such as NY Times, IMDB and many others, just type in the url of the website and check if there is anything available.

Tip: Don’t fall for the “Click YES to show password”. These are just spam and make it harder to find legit accounts to use.

3) 10 Minute Mail

Sometimes you need a disposable email address to receive a confirmation or to register for some service, but don’t feel like the crap that follows. 10 Minute Mail creates one of the email addresses for you and after 10 minutes, if you don’t click the renew button, it deletes the address. Very simple and useful!

4) namechk

Wondering if your username is available on a specific website or across a whole range? namechk makes this easy. You type in the desired username and it will scan the 159 websites in  it’s database to check if it is available, or taken, and on which sites. This is also useful to check if there is someone with the same username that may be out there.

5) Fake Name Generator

This one is bordering on illegal, but it all depends how it is used. As they say in their FAQs:

We do not condone, support, or encourage illegal activity of any kind. We will cooperate with law enforcement organizations to assist in the prosecution of anyone that misuses the information we provide or that asks us to provide illegal materials, such as forged documents or genuine credit card numbers.

That being said, we really don’t see how it could be. If you make up a random name and address off the top of your head, do you really think its illegal?

Choose the gender, name set and country (there are also advanced options) and soon you’ll be Aaron Hope of Pont Crugnant, a training consultant weighing in at 206.4 pounds.  It’ll even give you an email address and “credit card number” (just don’t try use it).

This can be very useful when registering for certain sites on the web where you’d rather not share your own information on.


Free Shit!

I’m all for free stuff, even if it takes entering a whole shitload of competitions. If you know where to look, there are a hell of a lot of free online competitions.

Unfortunately, if you’re not from South Africa, some (or most) of these won’t be much use to you.

1) Winstuff.co.za

This website links to all sorts of competitions around the web, again this is mostly for South Africans. Some may require you to send an sms, some require registration of some kind but 90% of them are free to enter.

I have realised that they do miss out on one or two of the competitions on the same websites of other competitions that they do post. So when you are on the website of whatever competition you are entering, have a look around and see if there aren’t any others.

2) JustPlay

For answering a questionnaire from a sponsor, you get given an entry into a choice of various prizes. You get given a limited amount of entries, so choosing which prizes you want can be difficult. You can also earn or buy bonus entries which bypass the questionnaire. Each prize will stay on the site for a certain period (generally more than 200 days) and once that period is over a random name is drawn.

3) A Few Others

The following are very similar to winstuff.co.za and most of their prizes that they link to are exactly the same. There are occasionally one or two others that winstuff.co.za doesn’t list that show up here.

Although that they technically aren’t free or competitions, there are a growing number of group buying schemes that save you not less than 50% on eating out, holidays and whatever is on offer. The most well known of these is most likely Twangoo, who joined forces with international giant Groupon to bring us MyCityDeal

There are plenty others and the amount of sites are growing monthly. This article will give you an idea of the number of sites out there.


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