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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.


FUN & GAMES 
  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


HANDY UTILITIES
  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.

 

 

GREAT APPS I DON'T USE

 

 

  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.

René


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

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.

 

1. EAR COVERING TYPE

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

 

  

2. CABLE LENGTH & CABLE INSULATION MATERIAL

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.

 

3. CONNECTION JACK

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.

 

4. COST

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.

 

AND THE WINNER IS:

Skull

IMHO RULES!

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)

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.

 

 


Opportunities

Posted by Rene C Schutte on August 10, 2009 at 11:46 PM Comments comments (1)

 "This blog was inspired by the 'Return To Innocence' Album


To Donna & Michelle -

This was an unorchestrated photo shoot of little Michelle, whose proud Mom (Donna) was sharing the outside dining area of Rudi's Restaurant in Downtown Boston, USA.

Myself being from South Africa, Donna and Michelle from Bermuda, and fate (or destiny) allowing this meeting and the opportunity for magic...."


Life consists of opportunities both missed and realised. It is easier to see opportunities in retrospect, and often we view missed opportunities with regret thinking of what could have been. Perhaps it's worth noting that some opportunities can be recreated and you'll have a second chance to realise it. That is however, not quite what this story is about.

 

This story is instead about the opportunities presented in our day-to-day life and the four simple steps in realising these opportunities.

 

Take a moment and think about it and you will hopefully see that it's not just applicable to photography as an example, but also to any and all opportunities you would like to take advantage of and turn into reality in your own life.



 

1. Prepare for it

Simple, right? To be prepared simply means you need to be ready for the opportunity when it presents itself. After all, you do know it's coming. Eventually! So when it does, be ready, or else you will most likely regret it, kicking yourself saying, "if only".

 

In photography being prepared means taking your camera with you, unless your clairvoyance is really up to scratch. Doh!

 

Having your camera isn't enough though, as when the opportunity is there and the 'shot' is there for the taking, you can still miss it. It happens all too often with a new camera and new lighting, and when auto-settings simply doesn't cut it. So learn from each opportunity.



 

2. Recognise it

It sounds so simple, but we are often so engrossed in our own lives we can easily miss opportunities that stare us right in the face. We could have our noses buried in a book, though nothing wrong with that, one should look up once in a while, and stay in tune with that which you have set as your goals.

 

It's too late if you recognise the opportunity once it's gone by, or equally as bad to never even realise it has come and gone.

 



3. Grab it

Practise makes perfect, and though there is no such thing as perfection in photography as such (or is there?) it is true that as I explore my creative eye, I do feel it becomes more refined, and I learn as I go along. Finding new opportunities as I go along seem never-ending, almost like reaching the horizon only to find the road continues to stretch ahead with new twists and turns to explore.

 

If you see the opportunity and you've recognised it, but yet you haven't grabbed it, or at least tried to, then shame on you. What a waste. If I didn't get off my behind and ask Donna if it would be ok to take some pics of Michelle this perfect opportunity would have simply faded like mist before the sun, and I would've felt the poorer for missing this wonderful chance to capture innocence, and the simple pleasures of childhood.

 

 


4. Savour it

What good is taking opportunities one after another, and turning them into reality, and yet never stopping to savour the pure joy that comes from realising your opportunity. If it's not worth savouring then why did you even bother setting yourself up for the opportunity in the first place? Conversely if you've made it to step four, then you should take a moment, or longer, and suck the juice out of the opportunity, and savour the joy that realising it has brought you.

 

It is after all what makes your life special?

 


 


Three Seasons In One

Posted by Rene C Schutte on July 27, 2009 at 5:53 PM Comments comments (0)

In my recent visit to the west coast of the USA I found there were both seasons of people as well as seasons of weather. 

 

 

The People

 

If you've ever made a cup of coffee or tea with milk, mixed or blended ingredients to a cake or cement you would understand there is a point somewhere in the middle when the various parts of your concoction is not quite mixed in properly and this is something I find to be quite relevant when looking at populations of different races across the world and equally true for the areas I visited in California.

 

The people I encountered in San José and driving radius of one and a half hours, inclusive of Monterey and San Francisco, like many other parts of the world including South Africa (SA) are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and races. Almost to a point where I wanted to ask where are the Americans? I was surprised when asking (because I can :cool:) for directions in these areas, where the locals were mainly Mexican or Asian, that they spoke very poor English. One resident only managed to state "No Engleesh" as if I had entered the driveway of a residence deep in Mexico. The people, even if they could hardly understand me were most helpful, and friendly, willing to try and help even if unable to do so.

 

Finding English speaking Americans seem to be more and more difficult in a number of areas of California. I can and would have to presume that this is a trend that is replicated in other areas of California and other parts of the US as well. Research* does show the percentage of non-US residents in America is rising and has been for many years.

 

Being witness first hand to the seasons of people in California was most interesting to my traveler's inquisitive mind from the blossoms of spring to the autumn colors of turning leaves only time will tell whether our seasons will continue to blend, leaving us with a single season or conversely become more diversified as we circle our sun.

 

* http://www.gothamgazette.com/demographics/oct.02.shtml  

* http://bit.ly/14xw7f

 

 

The weather

 

Equally interesting for me was getting in a car in San Jose with outside temperatures skimming around 32°C (89°F) driving an hour south-south west, to the coast of Monterey Bay and finding the outside temperature had dropped to 15°C (59°F) in this short space of time. The weather was typical to what one would expect from high summer in Johannesburg, SA vs. winter in Johannesburg.

 

Monterey was a contradiction of weather where the cloud base seemed to cause the drop in temperature, since when it evaporated into the Californian sky, the temperature quickly and sharply rose toward the high twenty's again. The same seemed true a week later when travelling north from San Jose, to San Francisco, where the cold air in this beautiful city quickly forced me to reach for jersey and jacket. Driving back from San Francisco the overcast, cold air again gave way to the dry summer heat of San Jose.

 

Don't we live in a remarkable world where the constant changes seasons in people and weather keep us forever on our toes wondering what language dictionaries we may need vs. how many shorts and coats we need to pack for our next trip. As for me, I still wouldn't know what to advise:roll: to pack when visitng this area, so would suggest packing a bit of both to be on the safe side.:D

 

- René C Schutte (26 July, 2009)

 

Note1: Feel free to comment on your experiences.

Note2: Please note any racist or discriminatory content will be removed.

Blah Blah Blog Sheep

Posted by Rene C Schutte on July 24, 2009 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (2)

Well, it's official. I am now part of the flock of sheep that have meekly been herded down the garden path towards my ultimate destiny, to write my own blog.


 

It seems more and more of us out there are using blogging as a general venting machine (no coins required, unless you want to rid yourself of banner advertising in which case, VISA, Mastercard, Paypal, etc. is your best "pal".


 

I have kept a diary many years ago and here I am with the perfect medium in which to order, format and share my thoughts, except you don't have to go scrounging through my room to find my diary. Instead you can conveniently just bookmark this page (or not ;-)) and read my posts as and when they appear.


 

My intent with having my own personal web site is not clear other than it is in-line with my core need to explore and perhaps order my own thoughts, she said sheepishly. Yes, indeed I am but another member of the flock of Bloggers that consume bits and bytes on terabytes (petabytes) of disk storage across the world.


 

I hope that some may find my ramblings slightly amusing, somewhat insightful, mostly thought provoking and sometimes informative. Time will tell.

 

Until then and specifically until my next post, baaaah to you all, my fellow flocking sheep.