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Android "Rolling" TOP "20" Apps and my Galaxy S2

Posted by Rene C Schutte on October 12, 2011 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (7)

I wonder how many apps the general smartphone user has on their phone, and what they really use. Having read quite a few "Top 20" app list articles of course it was only natural that I would jump on this bandwagon, except, in my case perhaps hook on a trailer as I seem to use 45 apps to the point where I feel a need to share my thoughts on these wonderfull applications, many completely free from the Android Market Place.

Allow me another paragraph or two of rambling before I jump to the list ;-). I just love the storage on my Samsung Galaxy S2, which I had to get as my previous HTC Desire was simply pathetic with regards to RAM, and internal storage. Having a super smartphone without the capacity to be used as the mini-tablet it has become, is just plain frustrating... to me at least.

As for many super smartphone users out there, the reasons for having them are both diverse and similar. Some (like you know who ;-) are fairly high up on the geek scale and therefore need to squeeze every last bit of battery and CPU cycles out of the poor little electronic gadget, critising a modern technological miracle to the point where it would blush if it could when they should be hailed perhaps as the modern marvels they are. But then we wouldn't be the digital consumers we are if we went that route would we?

It is clear as crystal that we've moved (in case you missed it) way down on the geek scale when it comes to the emotive attachments we place on todays smartphone. We strap it, we wear it, we colour code it, we sleep with it next to us, we charge it all the time, and have mini heart palpatations when we realise we may run out of battery life. 

How many non-geeks are livid about their BBM being down. How many non-geeks are saddened by the passing of visionary, Steve Jobs? And how many non-geeks play the modern day evolutionary equivalent of PacMan, i.e. Angry Birds? The answer to these questions are of course the same; that many non-geeks have become as attached to their gadgets as their geek friends.

So for geeks and non-geeks alike here then are for the Android platform with a mega trolley in the form of a Galaxy S2 my list of applications, that I use, like and prefer:

TOP APPS (Must! Have) (In alphabetical order)

  1. Airdroid - Ultra convenient for when you don't want to fish out your USB cable just to copy a few files to or from your phone. Just use your wifi and browser.

  2. Android Agenda Widget - Must have if you have a busy calendar and want the best completely customisable calendar widget available in a variety of screen real estate sizes.

  3. Battery Left - Mainly because the battery charge level is displayd in the title bar, which is great if you don't want to root and custom theme your phone.

  4. Color Note - for my shopping, packing lists. Many would say EverNote is better and it is able to sync to your PC. If you want to use something like EverNote then rather just use MS Outlook Tasks. Gives the same and better functionality than EverNote. Color Note on the other hand is handy with it's check lists, and as a place you might want to just temporarily use to paste some text.

  5. ConvertPad - For converting my scuba tank pressure from PSi to Bar (wish I can use it more! ;-P)

  6. CoolReader - For reading all my eBooks.

  7. Dolphin Web Browser - My favourite browser above all the others on Android.  Allowing multi-tabs and builtin + customizable excellent gesture feature.

  8. Extended Controls - To have sweep & click access to my torch (flashlight), Wifi Access Point, airplane mode, and much much more.

  9. "File Manager" by Rhythm Soft - The name says it but added the developer name as the product name is so generic. Worth mentioning why I like File Manager more than other popular file managers

    The quick nav ribbon at the top with quick access to Windows network shares. Easily to download/upload content between your PC and Android using your wireless network.

    The ability to fit onto the screen (by default) the full file names even for long file names.

    The extremely handy Bookmarks feature, to have quick access to all your folders like, photos, videos, recordings, music, documents, etc. accross your internal as well as SD Card storage.

    The ability to run it in super user mode if you're so inclined.

  10. Google News - Personalised edition.

  11. Gtalk (Talk) - Native Android Gtalk application ensure you're always available to chat.

  12. Hi-Q MP3 Recorder - Luv the fact it recordsdirectly to MP3. Clean, simple, effective.

  13. Olive Office - Even better than Polaris? Well, it gives the ability to not only view MS Office documents, but also to edit them!

  14. PlayerPro - Great music player, coz you can browse your file system if like me your music is categorised on your hard drive in folders. How painful is it to have to re-setup playlists everytime you use a different player? I far rather file my songs ONCE manually into my personal music folder structure.

  15. Plume - Best app for Twitter imho. Love the built-in URL shortening feature (to bit.ly). It generally picks up the headers and links perfectly from articles you wish to tweet.

  16. PocketCloud - For remotely controlling my desktop PCs, such as using it as a Video Remote Control adjusting the volume on the big screen desktop from the comfort of the couch.

  17. Polaris - View your Microsoft Office documents, and even edit them.

  18. Pulse News Reader - My favourite News (RSS Feeds) reader. And I can easily import all my Google Reader feeds.

  19. ReadItLater - Luv it. For saving really useful articles, as well as content I might want to read offline. 

  20. Swift Key - IMHO, next to Swype, the best predictive text keyboard with support for multiple languages, including Afrikaans! If you don't like Swype, then get SwiftKey. Having tried almost half a dozen different touch keyboards, I found SwiftKey way ahead of the others, with it's seemingly unique learning engine and it's very impressive predictive capabilities.

  21. Swype - For text input these keyboards are TOPS!

  22. Touchdown - For full Active Sync Exchange or Zimbra integration Having fully tested on both. For email I find it better than native Android app purely because it supports viewing your email in HTML so you see it as you would in Outlook (or other rich email client) . I need to add I only use Touchdown for Email and have disabled Calendar Sync and Contacts Sync, which I do via the Android native application. The reason for this is I find the phone dialer integration better with native Android and the calendar Android app widget was the decider for the calndar being native Android.

  23. What's App - Chat across Android, iPhone, BlackBerry or Symbian, sharing text, audio, photos, or videos with your friends.

  1. Angry Birds - Well, of course! In all three flavours, "Classic" , "Rio" and "Seasons"
  2. Field Runners HD - Warning: Highly addictive
  3. Geared - Great brain exercise game
  4. GT Free+ - Great racing game with superb graphics. I still can't drive it though... LoL. NOTE: The game download is in excess of a couple of hundred MB so you may not want to download it via your 3G.
  5. Google Sky Map - If like me on a clear night at the campfire you struggle to find the southern cross, or Jupiter ;-)
  6. Mahjong - Game
  7. MatchUp - Game
  8. Memory Trainer - Cool
  9. Paper Toss - Game
  10. Pool Master - Game
  11. Wordfeud - Always have a scrabble partner (or 10)
  12. Chess (AI Factory)
  13. Ping Pong 3D
  14. Tank Hero
  15. Tetris

  1. Google Goggles - Great for scanning business cards to your contacts
  2. IP Address Widget - Handy in a number of cases to see what your IP address is.
  3. Merriam Webster - Dictionary
  4. Mini Info - Quite handy for quick storage info
  5. Magnetic Field Tracker - (also See Startrek Tricorder ;-D) -coz it's fun
  6. Open Office Document Reader - For Open Office documents ;-)
  7. Photoshop Express - Quick and easy to make your mobile pics pretty.
  8. Google Translate - Надо ли говорить больше?
  9. Waze - Free & Open Source Voice Navigation. Very cool!!
  10. Titanium Backup - Backup your precious....
  11. SBMX -- Very cool drawing by hand application.
  12. Alarm Clock Xtreme - Make sure you're awake by doing some simple math before being able to dismiss the alarm. Xtremely configurable.
  13. Big Digital Clock - Able to set it very dim you get a non-instrusive lighted deskside digital clock in full screen portrait or landscape.
  14. IP Camera Viewer - Allows me to monitor the outside security gate via my connected connected wirelessly to the  installed networked CCTV camera. 
  15. Screencast - Record your actions on your Android phone as an AVI video clip.
  16. OS Monitor - Look under the hood of your Android to see what's taking up memory, CPU, Network and Internet traffic.






  1. Seesmic and Tweetdeck - I prefer Plume for Twitter and either the Android Facebook client or full desktop Facebook through Dolphin
  2. EverNote - Great if it were free, but Outlook Tasks does the same and works natively between Android and Windows. The PRICE of Evernote completely put me off from using it.
  3. TotalCommander - Still need to compare it with "File Manager"
  4. Google+ - Hmmm, actually not using it much lately, but will leave it on the list as having a Top 44 App List will be too weird.
  5. Skype - I just tend to Gtalk more than Skype




.... THE END


Photograph Lightning in Ten ...err Eleven Easy Steps

Posted by Rene C Schutte on October 2, 2011 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Here are some settings I have found useful in taking photos of lightning bolts. Hope this helps you with your pics :)

  1. Tripod 
  2. ISO 200
  3. F 4.5 or lower
  4. Exposure 3" (depending on light) 
  5. 50 - 200mm lens
  6. Good view of storm after it has passed
  7. It's not raining where you take the pic
  8. Manual focus
  9. 2 second time delay prior to starting shoot series (optional)
  10. Set camera to shoot 5-10 shots in succession
  11. Aim & shoot :)

If these tips helped you please share a link to your photos. I would love to see them

Happy snapping.


Nokia N900 Review

Posted by Rene C Schutte on July 23, 2010 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (6)

 So being at the bottom end of the globe at the southern tip of Africa I waited patiently for my Nokia N900 which was back-ordered in Dec 2009 and finally was launched in June 2010 here in South Africa. Being a long-time Nokia fan like so many of you I couldn't wait to get my hands on this new baby. If course there is the inevitable transitional period of "where did this feature go" or "how do I get to do this or that or the next thing" and this is obviously part of the fun of getting to know your new smartphone. This baby (or should I say monster) is a very powerful piece of equipment; that much is fact.

Main Reasons For Waiting For The N900:

... Click here to read more

Spanish Dancing in Inhambane, Mozambique

Posted by Rene C Schutte on April 30, 2010 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)


My mind is still reeling from the magical moments we shared on the latest scubaversity trip, September 2008 to Inhambane, Mozambique. The experience accentuated by the long delay since my last ocean diving in April this year. That’s just too long, isn't it?

Leaving at midnight, well almost, on the luxury coach complete with onboard loo and movies, we travelled the distance in a respectable and cheerful 15 hours. The cost savings, party mood (thanks for those yummy treats Mariana), and promise of adventures made short work of this stretch of our trip, and we arrived to beach sands and palm trees in the middle of the Mozambican coastline before sunset.

Diving USA - Central Florida

Posted by Rene C Schutte on February 19, 2010 at 5:12 PM Comments comments (0)

Ever wondered how the diving is in the state of Florida, USA? Well, if you ever do get a chance to go out there, then rest assured there is enough to do in terms of blowing bubbles, and it's most defintely worth it!

Recently visiting Disney World, attending an IT conference and wanting to do a bit more than saying "hi" to Mickey, I was very interested to see what the diving in Central Florida had to offer.

Florida is a State with an East Coast (Atlantic) and a West Coast (Gulf of Mexico) and quite tropical. Also, there is very little in the sense of mountains; even the inland dives are done at sea level!

Diving the Fresh Water Springs - "Blue Grotto"

In the interior parts of Central Florida, in between the two coastal regions, you would find a number of fresh water springs, such a little place called Blue Grotto and and another popular site is Devils Den.

... Click here to read more

The Quest for the Perfect Headphones / Earphones / Ear Thumps!

Posted by Rene C Schutte on November 22, 2009 at 5:08 PM Comments comments (21)

So who of you out there does not own a set of headphones or six for your iPod shuffle, Nano, MP3 player or Music capable cell phone?

 Most of us tend to focus on the next glitzy music playing device. Should we go Apple and iTunes or Nokia Music store music.nokia.co.za (at least available in South Africa) but little consideration is given to the actual device delivering the audio waves to your ears. I am of course referring to headphones. Oh yes, we receive new pair with every iPod or phone, and relevant music gadget and we mostly accept what is packaged with the device. In this blog I will shed a bit more light on my experiences and findings in the “Quest for the perfect headphones”.

If you’ve travelled internationally lately you would no doubt have noticed fellow travelers adorned with bulky headphones that they spend quite a few Euros or Dollars on in order to enjoy the bulk of their journey in a noise-reduced high quality music world of their choosing. Others have less obtrusive headphones, but a large majority has a music player and a set of headphones of some sort somewhere on their person or close by in the carry-on luggage.

Aside from receiving a pair of headphones with your music player many of us end up in electronic stores such as Incredible Connection, Stax, Radio Shack, etc depending on our country, looking for another pair of headphones. Why? Well, the main reasons of course for getting a new pair of headphones would include having lost your headphones, they were broken/damaged, you want a spare set, they are uncomfortable and you want a better set, etc.

Let’s look at some of your options in getting a new set and what their advantages/disadvantages might be.

Some of the brands you may be looking at would include iPod, Nokia, Sony, Skull, Sennheiser, Griffin and No-name-brand "Made in China"-types to name but a few.

In all the headphones I have evaluated/used I have built up a list of features I feel are crucial to select a pair of headphones that will last and provide high quality music delivery.



a. Overhead headphones: These are the traditional decades old design of an "alice band" over the head attaching two cups covering your ears. The cups could be lined with sponge only or sponge covered in soft leather for the more expensive types.


Pros: Excellent music quality; Excellent noise-reduction; Excellent Bass

Cons: Bulky (even with folding types); Can cause ear sensitivity with prolonged use; Uncomfortable for sleeping on your side



b. Ear Thumps: Like me many of you out there might ask what on earth is an ear thump anyway? Well here’s a picture to explain.


Pros: Excellent music quality; Excellent noise-reduction; Very good bass; Highly unobtrusive; Excellent comfort even with prolonged use; Suitable for sleeping even lying on your side; Variety of thump sizes available.

Cons: None?


 c. Earphones: with sponges, similar to thumps in that the earphone is also snuggly fitted in the earphone and assisted to be secured at the ear canal entrance mainly by the nature of the sponge cover of the headphone.


Pros: Excellent music quality; Average noise-reduction; Very good bass; Highly unobtrusive; Excellent comfort even with prolonged use; Suitable for sleeping even lying on your side;

Cons: Sponges tend to "get lost" and are difficult (if not impossible) to replace in South Africa.


d. Wrap-around headphones: where a part of the headphone consists of a curved portion to be fitted around the ear and the headphone positioned at the end of the curved portion. This allows he headphone to sit against, but is not inserted into the ear canal.


Pros: Excellent music quality; Average noise-reduction; Excellent Bass

Cons: Can cause ear sensitivity with prolonged use; Uncomfortable for sleeping on your side




Each of the type of headphones/earphones mentioned above is available with a variety of cable lengths. The reason for adding this is especially relevant if you tend to require a longer cable length for wearing your music player in your bag, on your hip or in your pocket. I found that Phillips and Nokia pre-packaged headphones scored poorly here whereas Skull earphones scored very well in this regard with ample extra length cable to avoid the phones tugging your ears.

I found the no-name brand Chinese cheap ear thumps and even Phillips headphones to have poor insulation materials used causing the brittle thin wire inside the insulation to break causing music interruptions.

Sennheiser and Skull score great here with high quality insulation that remains flexible through hot and cold temperatures, and resulting in the thin wiring to last much longer.



Worth mentioning here that though Nokia is now producing most of their headphones with a standard 3.5mm jack but I would unfortunately still not pick them over other earphones or head phones as Nokia has continued in their previous design of making the one cable shorter than the other!

The no-name-brand Chinese and even Phillips brand have problems connecting to all devices properly, almost as if the jack is not the standard 3.5mm but instead 3.4-something mm. As such you will get frustrated using these in a variety of devices such as laptop earphone jacks vs, iPod, etc. On one device the earphones will play properly. On another device the jack will not fit properly and you will find the music not playing or playing intermittently which makes them essentially useless on those devices.

Skull, Sony and Sennheiser has high quality 3.5mm jacks that I have yet to find any problems with.



The no-name-brand-Chinese and Phillips brand rank among the cheapest. Though in South Africa the Phillips earphones offer one of the better alternatives if you’re cash-strapped.

A good pair of Sony or Sennheiser would set you back more but you could have great enjoyment from them for years.

Skull headphones win outright in terms of cost vs. value for money, at the cost of the higher quality/higher priced brands it’s almost half the price, but with equal performance.





In all aspects this is a set of earphones that you can live and sleep with in comfort, for years, enjoying high quality sound on all your electronic music devices. If you can get your hands on them (Available in Radio Shack, USA)

Durban Rocks Scubaversity

Posted by Rene C Schutte on October 4, 2009 at 5:08 AM Comments comments (8)

You are indeed privileged to spend a quick and powerfully refreshing weekend away diving along one of the lesser spoken of areas of Durban and Umhlanga, South Africa with a great group from scubaversity!!!


The reefs and wrecks are definetely something to be experienced in your diving career. Although this area is not always that great with regards to conditions, believe me the diving can be very rewarding.


We started off with diving two reefs just south of the Durban harbour...(read more)


When will my Nokia replace my SEIKO??

Posted by Rene C Schutte on September 18, 2009 at 8:22 PM Comments comments (12)

It seems in the world today we have almost as many makes and models of cell phones to choose from as wrist watches and every day a whole bunch of new ones are available. They twist, slide, vibrate, play music, photos, Internet, and a list as long as my arm of other things that makes Captain Kirk look like he was talking into a cheese grater when asking Scotty to beam him up.

And like with wrist watches you can now have your Motorola covered in diamonds and gold as it reflects as much the Rolex on the wrist in our new sci-fi reality show.


Moving from the philosophical to the pragmatic I have personally been a huge fan of Nokia over the last bunch of years, and as such quite excited when reading about the new N900 phone. I was hoping it would finally combine the best of the powerful Nokia E90 with the touch screen interface of the Nokia 5800 Express Music and the screen size of the Apple i-phone.


What's been bugging me lately in the "battle between the real keyboard vs the touch screen keyboard" is that somehow the real kb (specifically the sideways kb's) or "landscape" keyboards have less and less buttons and instead we see overly compensated BIG buttons. What gives?


Manufacturers seem to be expecting users to use the touch screen together with the landscape keyboard to fully navigate. It is simply inconvenient to have to shift the position of the phone in your hands to highlight and repair a spelling error three words back. It seems it should be possible to make the keyboard bigger on the new N900, like with the E90, or use button sizes between the too-tiny-blackberry buttons vs what now is becoming too big buttons on the Nokias, HTCs and others.

Applying the E90 button size to the N900 model for instance would possibly allow for a mouse to have been added which is so handy when web browsing jumping between web links close to one another even with the lovely big screen Nokia put on this highly appealing N900. Or to use the mouse in conjunction with the Ctrl button to jump words when texting.


For now my E90 is still tops, with the 5800 ExpressMusic a close second but I would most likely upgrade to the N900 once it's available.


I have said it before and will say it again quoting from the movie the Matrix, "What good is a phone Mr. Anderson, if you cannot speak?" and in this case speak is texting. IMHO where phone meets PC, real tactile slide out qwerty keyboards's rule thumbs down.



WITS University FOSS Awareness Day (FOSS AD)

Posted by Rene C Schutte on September 4, 2009 at 7:31 PM Comments comments (3)

(Sep 2009)

True to the spirit of celebrating Software Freedom Day later this month, WITS hosted its first FOSS Awareness Day event within the KIM portfolio. In previous years similar events have been hosted by the School of Math Sciences with the B.Sc students demonstrating their technical achievements using FOSS (Free & Open Source Software).

On the 3rd of September the FOSS AD was held on West Campus, in the newly renovated FNB building in the main auditorium. The final number of registered delegates was 274 but over 300 people attended the event.

The welcome address of the event was given by Vice Principal Dr.Yunus Ballim. Various other senior Wits staff attended the event.

As part of the "Virtual Pathway" the students had computers set up along with various vendors that included, Sun Microsystems, Obsidian,TSI and Acer.

The main goal of the event was ... read more

Monterey Bay - Cool Waters & Warm Hearts

Posted by Rene C Schutte on August 24, 2009 at 4:13 PM Comments comments (4)

(July, 2009)

As on all my (not so many) business trips I always look out for a chance to take a dip in the nearest pond or ocean with my scuba gear. It is after all a passion  of note, and besides, I have never once regretted taking my gear along just in case I get a chance to blow a few bubbles.

And so it was with my last trip to the USA where I was fortunate enough to attend the OSCON 2009 convention. You can read more about this event in my article which you will find here.Thus I had an entire Sunday to myself before the business part of my trip started and I intended to make full use of my chance.

... read more