Drifting in and out of consciousness (oxfordhacker) wrote,
Drifting in and out of consciousness

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Better living through technology

I have an Android phone which I love dearly and which I am encouraging to take over all functions of my life. The plan is that my brain will stop having to pay attention to the quotidian minutia and be freed up to - I dunno - become creative, or develop psychic powers or something. I've only managed the freeing up bit so far, but hopefully my brain's doing something worthwhile in there... Anyway, I thought it might be useful to share a few of the apps that I use to make my life better. I know there are a million and one '10 Best Android Apps' articles out there, but this one is different: I'm probably going to give up at about 5. Let's see, shall we?

  • Relax and Sleep (freemium). I'm really not good at doing two different language-processing tasks at once. I can handle multiple simultaneous conversations, but I'm nearly unable to read or write when there's talking going on. This even extends to TV or radio programs playing elsewhere in the house, so this app is perfect: a white noise generator to stop my brain from fixating on chatter. It was loads of different white-noise options: 'dishwasher running', heavy rain' or 'soft beach' for example, and you can even combine them (with individual volume controls) to get perfect coverage. It also has some other 'relaxing' sounds, though frankly I find the 'acoustic guitar' plinking to be almost instantly irritating, 'monk chanting' makes me nervous about what it might be invoking, and 'wolves' to be distinctly odd choice. Also, I'm disappointed that combining the monks and the wolves doesn't give you screams...

  • Dropsync (freemium). You know how great Dropbox is, right? It's an automagically syncing directory of stuff shared across all your computers, so you never have to remember to back things up or shove vital stuff onto a USB stick to take home, and it allows you to share files or folders with specified people or with everyone. Awesome. (If you aren't using it already, you can sign up via this link and we both get extra space...) Imagine my joy when I found that there was a Dropbox app for Android, allowing me to keep all those files automatically synced to my phone as well; then imagine my disappointment when I found out that said app is rubbish and doesn't actually do that; and then imagine my joy again when tinyjo found Dropsync, an app that does what the official Dropbox one should do. Even the Dropsync developers seem puzzled that such a thing is necessary but, but apparently it is, so kudos to them for supplying it.

  • ES File Explorer (free). It's really nice to be able to see all your files in their actual linux-y directories, and this does that, and allows you to manipulate them very much as you'd expect. Not very exciting, but a dead useful tool.

  • Touch Calendar (a bargain at £1.45). I've been using this for long enough that I can't even remember exactly how it improves on the built-in calendar. When my sister-in-law was round she heard me complain, gave a quick demo of this, and tinyjo and I both bought it instantly. I know it's got much better widgets, many more customisation options, and you don't have to keep switching between views to see what's going on; and it even uses your current calendar settings so you don't have to bugger about setting up a new app.

  • Shush! (free). This is just a really simple, neat idea: whenever you switch your phone to vibrate or silent, it pops up asking if you want to switch it back after a selected length of time. No longer will you suddenly realise you've been missing calls since yesterday's cinema trip.

  • Androminium (free). If you already know and love the card game Dominion, all you need to know is that this is single player Dominion against two adequate AI players using the original cards, plus Intrigue and Seaside. If not, you should probably play the real version first because this doesn't come with any instructions. It's basic but quick and terribly addictive. I'm just glad it doesn't track how much time I've spent playing it...

  • RPlayer (freemium). As I mentioned yesterday, I like listening to internet radio, and this plays it without any fuss. I only use it at home so I don't know how reliable or expensive it would be if you're using your mobile data connection, but it's great for keeping me in Canadiana as I wander round the house.

The only problem now is that I keep running out of batteries, because there's something I want my phone to be doing at all times. Still, does anyone else have any recommendations?
Tags: android, apps, phone
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