Best Android Apps

15 10 2010

Ah, Android love.  It is time to review some of the best and brightest offered in the Android Market today.  Some are pretty mainstream, but hopefully we can turn you on to a couple you either haven’t found, or have just been too hesitant to try.  The Android Marketplace, available through the nifty little icon, is a veritable sea of technological wonders.  One of the nice things about Android, and also HTC, is the usability of widgets.  Some nifty little programs that will display and work from any one of your, usually, seven home screens.  So without further ado, let’s get started.

Scan any of the barcodes below with your android phone to be taken to the download for that app in the Android Marketplace.  If you don’t have a barcode scanner, Search for Shop Savvy in the Marketplace and install it.

 

 

Advanced Task Manager

One pesky thing about Android is that fact that a lot of applications like to run in the background.  Most phones off of the shelf, or android for that matter, doesn’t come with any type of Task Manager to help moderate these pesky battery hogs.  So that is where advanced task manager comes in.  You can use the whole app and browse running programs and erase the ones desired, or you can do as I install the single-icon widget and with the press of a button all running apps are eradicated.  At any given time usually about 9 are running at once, but it can get up to around 24, so you gotta stay on it.

 

 

 

HandCent Text Messenger

Handcent is an alternate text messaging application that will take over for the stock version in your phone.  In my opinion, this app supersedes my Hero’s capabilities, and adds a nice iPhone looking skin on the messages.  It offers push notifications that will show over your lock-screen (not good if you like to keep secrets, but you can disable it) which also let you respond from there.  There are roughly seven or so font-packs you can use to spice up your messages, as well as a ton of other tweaks.

 

 

 

EasyTether

EasyTether is a super-convenient app that allows you to connect your phone via USB cable to your PC and “tether” the internet.  Essentially, your computer borrows your phones 3g connection, for free.  There is a paid version as well, but EasyTether Lite gets the job done fine for basic quick computing and just surfing the net.

 

 

 

Where

Where is an awesome app that is not only on Android, but should definitely get mentioned.  This nifty little package will show just about where anything is.  As well as offer the best gas prices in your area, peoples reviews on certain places, weather, etc.  Its really a useful app for someone who is on the move.

 

 

Photobucket Mobile

Most people know what Photobucket is, but if you don’t, it is a image hosting site on the internet.  Basically they store all of your pictures for free, unless you have A LOT of pictures.  The Photobucket app is super useful because if you have a phone with a decent camera, which lots of phones have nowadays, it’s a really convenient way to share these photos online.  Once you snap a picture, Photobucket will then upload that saved picture to your Photobucket account, allowing you to set up slideshows, post on websites and forums, or upload to Facebook, if your phone doesn’t do it already.

 

 

TuneIn Radio

This nifty little app lets you listen to damn near any radio station across the country.  Through which you can get down to the most local of stations, or browse the NPR options.  The quality is crystal clear, and the user interface is a breeze to navigate.  For free, this little app packs a punch.

 

 

 

 

 

gStrings

No, its not an x-ray machine, this is a fully featured guitar tuner offered for free in the Android Market.  This app is better than most any entry to mid-level guitar tuner out there, and its free.  Really a great steal.  Not to mention the way your friends will look at you when you pull out your phone to tune your guitar.

 

 

 

 

 

Notable Mentions:

– 3 (Cubed): if you’re going to listen to music on your phone, why not make it a 3D interactive cube to browse and play it with.

– Google Voice

– Thinking Space:  Mind Mapping software.  Awesome for writers.

– Spectral Analyzer:  A spectrometer.  Good for finding ghosts, or where that mouse is behind the wall.

– Metal Detector:  Uses your phones built in antenna to detect metal.  I didn’t believe it at first either.





Android Apps for Beginners

13 10 2010

Ah the magic and beauty of the Android OS.  Thanks in part to big name phone makers such as HTC, Motorola, and Samsung all hopping on the bandwagon we have this iPhone.  As hardware potential climbs, the sheer beauty of the things you can accomplish with this software are becoming more and more apparent in our everyday lives.  The apps available for download in the Android Marketplace, most of them free, some paid, are a testament to just how far we can go with this relatively new technology, and show that the sky is the limit with quality services to be offered, aka Google Sky Map.

To the beginner, Android, or even a touch screen phone for that matter, can seem like somewhat of a daunting task to take on.  But once you get your feet wet, and start having some fun, pulling your fingers away from the screen will get harder and harder.  One of the largest appeals for these new phones is the availability, and usefulness, of Applications.  There is a vast sea of apps out there for you to dabble in within just about every genre you can imagine.  Finding these apps is made possible by the Android Marketplace.  A preexisting app that comes with your Android phone.

Due to the sheer amount of apps out there, it is hard to differentiate which ones will be the most useful for most people, so we will just go ahead and focus on a few of the most fun.

1. Google Sky Map

Google Sky Map is an innovative App that utilizes your GPS positioning, and the camera on your phone to view stars, planets and constellations in our immediate galaxy.  The sheer scope of this app is impressive, but its simplicity is what makes it fun for all ages.  Using your screen as a viewfinder you can point the camera on your phone is any direction and get an accurate mapping of the stars, constellations and planets.  A really fascinating and fun way to look at our world, and learn.

2. Layar

Layar is in essence, very similar to Google Sky Map.  One major difference is, it focuses on our planet. More so, on your immediate surroundings.  Again utilizing your camera, and global positioning, you can use your phone as a viewfinder, and look around your immediate area to find shops, restaurants, stores, or landmarks.  Say you’re in downtown Chicago, and you want to find a nearby pizza place.  Launch Layar, specify pizza, and just look through your phone.  If you rotate in a circle Layar will show you precisely whereeach establishment is, correlating rather efficiently with your local surroundings, And offering reviews to help you decide which place is best to have lunch.

 

3. Pandora

For those of you who don’t know, Pandora is an online radio that thinks.  It learns what you like to listen to, and then plays music, new or old, that fit into your interests.  Having this app on the go, especially when you are tired of your iPod library, can be super useful, and fun.

 

 

4. Radar Now

Radar Now is a live streaming app of your local weather radar.  When you launch the App it zeros in on your general location, and will display a live feed of the Doppler radar within about a 500 mile radius.  This app comes in super handy, especially if your an outdoorsy person.

 

 

 

5.  Shop Savvy

Shop Savvy is another app that utilizes the camera and viewfinder on your Android powered phone.  It turns your phone into an effective bar code scanner.  Just point the camera, wait for the scan, and see all of the products and reviews that this app will bring up.  Maybe not very essential in the grocery store, but if you find yourself at Best Buy searching for a new digital camera of LCD TV, this app will help find reviews and pricing info on the fly.  In essence,

making you the most educated shopper you can be.

This is just scratching the surface of valuable resources available in the Android Marketplace.  Once you start exploring, its hard to stop.  My suggestion is, get out from under that rock, invest in a new phone, and find out just what the fuss is all about.





Free Drawing & Graphic Software

13 10 2010

As the onset of Open Source software has been making more headway in the past couple of years, there is a bounty of quality free software around for anyone to try on for size.  Some more notable than others, but most are very well made products, and regularly updated through a small army of programmers.  The most common license for these products is the GNU General Public License, but there are other, less notable licenses as well.  This licensing ensures the quality and trustworthiness of the products you will be using in the future.  Anyone who has spent some time with the Linux operating system will be familiar with most of this.  If you are not familiar with Linux, get familiar.  Without further ado, let’s get listing!

1. GIMP – The GNU Image Manipulation Program

http://www.gimp.org

GIMP is essentially a full on Photoshop alternative, and it is 100% free.  I use gimp for almost all of my graphic design, and you can save your files in Adobe friendly formats that allow you full functionality with any Adobe suite or products you may already own.  This program runs much more efficiently than adobe in my opinion, I just enjoy the interface more.  Sure, there are some shortcomings that you just cannot ignore, such as the sheer quality edge and color detection you have in Photoshop, but if this is not essential for you, then why bother.

2. Blender – model – shade – animate – render – composite – interactive 3d

http://www.blender.org

Blender is a quality 3D modeling platform, also created under the GNU license.  It can be used for creating everything from 3D models and smoke simulation to creating animated films or video games!  Quality wise, Blender stacks up to other comparative programs, aka Maya and 3D StudioMax, rather well.  Sure it is limited in lack of Font Preview for text, lack of N-gon-based modeling workflow and some missing modeling tools.  It also is on the leading edge with advanced algorithms utilized for its UV unwrapping.  Basically, compare the price tag of Maya or 3D Studio to Blender and you definitely get what you don’t pay for.

Just a sample of what Blender can do:

 

 

3. Google SketchUp

http://sketchup.google.com/

Sketch up is essentially a simplified AutoCAD.  It has some one-dimensional aspects to it as well, and you can build houses for display in Google earth.  The simplicity lies in the interface, and the projects really just seem to come together.  I downloaded it on a whim, and wound up losing hours to trying to recreate my home, and building my dream one.  With some nice snap-to options, and a fun scaling platform, its worth the download.  And hey, who doesn’t trust Google?

This is really just scratching the surface of quality free drawing, image manipulation, and 3D modeling software out there, but if I had to pick, these are my top three.  Once you get into open source, or Google for that matter, it can be really hard to quit.  Hopefully this can help send you down a long and happy road of new, healthy computing options.





Thoughts on GoogleTV

8 10 2010

Google TV looks to be yet another great product of integration by Google, so let us all begin our sacrificial practices to the Google Gods, and give thanks.  After taking some time to browse the tour site that Google has so gracefully laid out for us enthusiasts over at Google.com/tv, I must say my pulse has quickened, and my heart-rate, well… my pulse has quickened.  As a side note, I have been living completely without Cable television for almost six months now, and I must say that I will never go back to paying outrageous amounts of money to be forced to watch mindless crap ever again.  Thanks to Netflix, Hulu, Blockbuster Online, and my HDMI out on my laptop, I enjoy plenty of rich, streaming entertainment which may still be crap, but its my crap.

With that said the onset of the new innovation dubbed ‘creatively’ Google TV looks like the Mecca on my newfound journey towards better quality entertainment.  I finally have a product to sling to all of my friends whom I am consistently bragging to just how entertained I am for about $20.00 a month.  Now, allow me to burst my own bubble.  The specifications on Logitech’s website for their Revue, the hardware that you can purchase to add Google TV to any existing TV’s you already own, requires a Cable or Satellite Set Top Box with HDMI out. *PoP*  For the time being, fingers-crossed that there will be an internet only version available as well.

Regardless of whether or not this will require an active cable or DirectTV membership with compatible set top box, the few screens and demonstrations us low level consumers get are enough to make me salivate at the thought of tinkering for hours with this new UI.  Imagine, Google Chrome launching on your 48″ Sony Bravia HDTV with a Pandora app running in the background, and rich, handpicked content there for you to explore.  The customization will surely be impressive, and as the program responds to consumers behaviors, I’m more than positive it will start to suggest some rather accurate viewing content for the regular users.

Imagine, rather than scrolling down that same old vertical TV guide we have become so used too, you get to Google it, and find when and where the shows you want to watch.  Not to mention a standard DVR method that works with all providers, Dish Network, DriectTV, AT&T, etc.  Although we are not too sure the amount of storage, I am sure it will get the job done effectively.  Also, just like the pocketBLU app for all you blu ray freaks, which lets you control your Blu-Ray players with your Android or iPhone smartphones, there will be an app to allow your phone to thus act as the remote for your new television experience.  It will fully control all functions; yet so will the keyboard you receive with the Revue.  Although you can only imagine the Sony TV’s will be shipping with them as well.  Sony is releasing its full line of TV’s and details on October 12, 2010.

All in all, this is the direction that technology is taking us in, and Google has clearly one-upped Apple, again, by offering us a quality product that is both intuitive, user friendly, and way more customizable than Apple will ever let its customers ever get a hold of.  As for me, I will keep looking for my perfect viewing scenario, but at least for the rest, this seems to be a pretty sweet ride.





How to Effectively Search the Internet

24 12 2009

The internet is a vast sea of information. There are plenty of sights along the way to grab your attention, and divert you from your initial goals, knowledge, or entertainment, or both. The web has grown and evolved into a multi-faceted realm of bright lights, flashing colors, and countless enticing deals. There are just as many Easter eggs containing little nuggets like pictures, videos, perspectives, art, poetry, and expression of all kinds. Wave after wave of information is projected at the surfer until they are potentially overwhelmed, and either lose sight of their initial goal, or find something new to help them along the way.

The question you need to answer before any searching happens is, ‘What goal do I have in mind right now, entertainment, or information?’ Once that is all cleared up, there are two main routes you can take to greatly achieve these goals.

First, we will cover information. In order to properly search for accurate or obscure titles covering the subject you are interested in right now, you have to think like a search engine. Everything comes down to two main factors, what keywords are you using, and what are other people searching as well to make something ‘popular’ enough to be prevalent to what you are searching for. Confusing? Well the internet is, so get used to it. If you are looking for something, chances are, at least 10,000 other people are looking for the same thing. They have either tried, or are trying. A search engine will compile this experience and work to display for you what it ‘assumes’ you are looking for. A great way to see how these things change is to type ‘How To’ or ‘What is’ into Google, and let the search engine complete the sentence for you, and see what pops up.

So what I am trying to say is that you need to manipulate the attention of a search engine in your favor. Word your queries appropriately. If you need a new type of fertilizer for your farm because you heard of some other Joe using some brand new formula that makes his Crops grow twice as fast, don’t just search ‘fertilizer’. Search ‘Best Fertilizer’ , or ‘New Fertilizer’. Ask a question like ‘What is the best fertilizer’. ‘How do you make great fertilizer’. The great thing about this practice is that it makes you refine your search by new ‘Keywords’. Words that will help narrow your search, and relate to the subject you are interested in. That is a good start to learning how to find what you want on the internet.

Now, say your not interested in learning about the technological wonders of fertilizer. Instead you want to find a video of a bunch of Japanese kids that tied a mallet to a remote controlled car and drove it down a row of wine bottles and when the mallet hit the bottles as the car drove it played the Level 1 song from Super Mario Brothers. Well my friend, then you are in luck! There are many tools out there to help you waste countless hours on the internet. I am going to enlighten you to just one. One is really enough, and if you get bored with it, I am sorry.

Wander over to a little old site call StumbleUpon.com. Stumble Upon is an amazing sight that uses millions of peoples opinions to jointly create a pool of sights considered cool, and popular on the net. All of these sights are broken down into applicable interests, and can relate to any lifestyle. As the user, your only responsibility is to tell this program what you are interested in. Once done, you click a small button that will enable you to ‘Stumble’ across the internet. When you get to a site you can either ‘Thumbs-Up’ or ‘Thumbs-Down’ the site for its content, and then have your impact on the popularity of this site. Quite possibly the coolest, most fun, and most addicting way to browse the web for relevant, interesting, and rich content that will keep you coming back for more.

Either way you look at it, the World Wide Web is your canvas, to paint upon iot the knowledge you wish to receive. The possibilities are endless. Go and search to your hearts content. And share with the rest of us what you have found so we may all grow from this amazing tool.