Monday, 25 October 2010

I'm... Baaaaaaaaacccckkkkkk!!! + Itchy Fingers + Speaker Proximity

Not posted for a while as I've been busy and my attempts at world domination were thwarted by Amazon's 'no associate payments to websites with trademarks in their title (google in my case)' policy.

I'm not going to cover Angry Birds and Reckless racing as these are covered at length elsewhere on the net. Just install Angry Birds, if you can afford to have it take over your life, it's free! Reckless racing is also good but cost money, well recommended though!

First up is my new fav thing in the world....

Itchy Fingers

Itchy Fingers is the multitasking manager that Android should have shipped with. It's still in beta so it does FC a lot and it doesn't play as well as it could with Launcher Pro. These are minor issues when you see how useful it is!

On the subject of Launcher Pro, if you have an Android phone for goodness sake install Launcher Pro, it is ESSENTIAL!!!

When installed it acts as your default launcher, hit the home button once and it opens your preferred launcher. Double tap it (TIP: set the double tap to 600ms, it rarely worked at the default setting) and it launches a gorgeous Rolodex style list of your open apps that you can scroll through and open the desired app (or kill it, or even uninstall it!).

The bottom section of the screen can be used for frequently used apps and even widgets, you can control your music player from here for instance.

Install it now, change the default to 600ms, and marvel at the 'magical and revolutionary' task manager!


This is way easier to explain: Automatic speakerphone. Make a call, when the phone is not against your ear the speakerphone automatically comes on, switches off when you put if back to your ear! It even knows when you are using a bluetooth headset or car kit and disables itself! Genius!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I've decided to expand this blog to include other things. The first of these will be a review of the new Amazon Kindle and a comparison against the Sony PRS-505 I've been using for the last 2 years (spoiler - the Kindle wins!).

Watch this space!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Droid VNC Server

I've been spending a lot of time messing with Tasker (see below) and got a bit tired of all the thumb work. Luckily I also discovered Droid VNC Server. It allows you to access you Android device from your PC (or other Android device running VNC Viewer if you are perverse!). Best of all it's free!

It can be accessed via a standard VNC client or via a web interface, although I couldn't get this to work.

It can be a bit laggy at times but it does have all the android keys mapped for ease of use.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Locale is Dead... Long Live Tasker

I started this blog with a post that highlighted two 'killer' apps, one of which was Locale. It is great sadness that I announce that my once killer app has been killed!

Locale is great, it's easy to use and has a wealth of plugins to extend it's funcitionality. Tasker is not so easy to use and there are no plugins written for it. So where's the benefit?

Tasker is more complicated, but this allows for loads of flexibility, it's vitually a programming language! No plugins... BOOOO!!!! Tasker supports Locale plugins... YAAAAAYYYY!!! I loved Locale but always found myself wishing it could do something I couldn't make it do, Tasker still has limitations but it's a leap forward from Locale.

Locale only supports entry conditions. This is difficult to explain but essentially it means that when an event is triggered (arriving home, putting your phone on charge, etc, etc) you can make stuff happen (enable wifi, start an app, etc). When you leave the situation there is no way to undo all the stuff you started, there is only the 'default' profile which is the state everything returns to when there isn't another profile overriding a setting.

With Tasker there are enter and exit tasks. When you enter a condition you can perform certain tasks and when you exit you can undo everything you did. This is more time consuming to setup but ultimately allows for more flexibility. For example, at night I turn all the volumes down so a late txt from a drunk friend in a different time zone (you know who you are!) doesn't wake me up with a klaxon level notification. On Locale the levels would return to whatever I set in my default profile. With Tasker I can set a variable for each of the Volumes (notification, ringtone, system, media, etc) and then use that to set the volumes back to whatever they were when the 'sleepy' condition exits!! I can also set it to kill apps I launched when entering a condition which stops the issue of the Locale default profile killing those same apps when at other times when they are launched manually!

The other 'win' for tasker is that it supports more events and conditions out of the box. Yet another are variables, which allow you to set variables that can be picked up by other tasks. As an example I have set a condition for meetings which silences my phone and sends a txt to anyone phoning or txting that tells them I will get back to them when I'm free again. I set a variable called '%MEETING' to '1'. I have another condition that reacts to incoming calls which, if %MEETING is 1, will reject them. This stops my phone buzzing on the table and also sets a notification (with a custom trackball colour!) so I can see who called as it doesn't show as a missed call (although tasker only allows me to program the number into the notification, not the contact name).

It's worth noting there are two ways to buy Tasker. 1) From the market, which gives you 24 hours to decide if it's a keeper and get a refund, or 2) via the website  which gives you a 7 day refund period and costs slightly less.

Widget support is better, and more complicated, under Tasker than Locale.

There is also a pretty active Tasker community who post the stuff they've achieved for you to import into your phone and mess about with it, even if it's just to get ideas.

One of the things that used to bug the shit out of me in Locale was that for a given condition you could only do one of each action, this was a particular pain with launching apps, you could only launch one! When I go into car mode (automatically when my bluetooth car kit connects) I wanted to launch my Speedcam software (RadarDroid) AND the car dock. Couldn't do it with Locale without creating multiple car conditions which would then clash and not always load. Tasker can!

Tasker isn't perfect, I've found a couple of things I couldn't do (but given it's programmy nature I may find a way) but nothing like the limitations of Locale.

Tasker is so powerful I don't need most of the plugins I bought to suppliment Locale, it can send txt messages and read things using text-to-speech which would have saved my buying Swiftreply and HandsfreeSMS (I still use them with Tasker, I've paid for them and I'm lazy!).

The bottom line is... if you want simple choose Locale... if you want more flexibility and don't mind jumping through more hoops then Tasker is the way to go.

You can't really get a lot from the screen shots, but here they are anyway:

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Battery Use Update

I looked into battery use; I wasn't dissatisfied but thought I'd see how I could squeeze maximum time out of my battery.

I discovered SetCPU. What this does is allow you to over or underclock you phone’s processor. Overclocking isn’t something I’d recommend but underclocking seems safe in theory.

What it also allows you to do is set profiles.

The first profile is Screen off or sleep. Apparently the Nexus one will drop to 384Mhz (from 998Mhz) when the screen is off but this may peak higher if apps running in the background demand it. By setting SetCPU to use a maximum of 384Mhz and a minimum of 245Mhz you save at least 14% of your battery every time your phone goes to sleep!

The second profile relates to charging (there are 3 charging in general, charging AC, charging USB). This allows you to drop the Mhz when charging, which on the surface seems daft – why save power when attached to the mains? The reason is simple, the less power your phone takes out of the battery, the faster the phone will charge!

The final profile type relates to battery level you can start reducing battery use as you charge drops below, say, 50%. Then you can drop it further at 30% and cut it right back when you reach critical levels to maximise your uptime.

On top of this you can set your default Mhz range. I’ve dropped my max to 883Mhz, in theory saving 11% when my phone is working at full capacity.

I’ll see how all this pans out.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Cyanonogen vs Orange - the winner is Cyanogen!!

I gave it another go... I'm a tinkerer at heart. Orange data has been stable (ie slow but there) so I installed Cyanogen again (I had taken a Nandroid backup but the restore hung everytime I ran it).

Installed Cyanogen, installed Google Apps, Titanium Restore, redid widgets... done! All seems pretty stable. Battery declined at an alarming rate (or so it seemed, it's easy to look for problems). A quick recharge and 2.5 hours later I've lost 5% of the charge, or about 2% per hour - I can live with 50 hours standby! The battery decline must have been due to me constantly messing about with the phone, the restores, etc. I may find cyanogen proves a bit juicy when in actual use but only time will tell. I've installed Juiceplotter which tracks your battery charge over time just to keep a track.

So how is it? GREAT! Favorite thing is apps2sd, this is like the default froyo version but works with most apps rather than just those coded to support it. It doesn't require a seperate partition like Cyanogen V5 either! I install a lot of, and I'll be honest here, crap and constantly have to delete stuff in order to fit new stuff on the phone.

Sadly my second favorite thing is the boot screen. The Nexus one was cool but I tired of it, this is new and I really like it. Look on Youtube if you wonder what all the fuss is about!

I'm gonna try it for a week and see how I get on... watch this space (not that anyone is watching it would seem!).

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cyanogen Nightly vs Orange

Tried the Nightly, got constant force close over the keyboard. Restore back to stock nandroid backup (which was working just fine when Orange data came back), no data! Is it Orange or is in tinkering? I have no idea thanks to Orange being crap... nice!

Time for bed me thinks!