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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?



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:51 am (UTC)
Now I want to play Dominion with you guys :(
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:23 pm (UTC)
If it's any consolation, I make evil decks :) In fact, that's one of the reasons why I like Androminium: no sad eyes guilt-tripping me from across the table.

On the other hand, did you know that you can play multiplayer online? I know it's not anything like as much fun as actually meeting up would be, but we could give it a shot some day, if you fancy...
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
I use that site! We use it to play Dominion with Steve's friend from Canada. I even have a rating. We should totally try to get together on there sometime :)

I've gotten pretty good at evil decks myself... Mwahaha!
Nov. 19th, 2011 03:48 pm (UTC)
Yes! We should fix up a time! When are you free at the weekend when we're both awake?
Nov. 19th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
I think you are either seven or eight hours ahead of us? So we could make it happen in the afternoon/your evening I think... Or later for us and earlier for you!
Nov. 17th, 2011 10:42 am (UTC)

I have profiles set up to:
- turn the phone onto silent overnight from 11pm;
- turn the phone onto airplane mode to save battery from 11:30pm until it downloads the Graun for me in the morning;
- turn WiFi on automatically when I come home or go into work, and off again when I leave;
- turn the GPS on automatically when I'm in Google Maps, Open Streetmap, Navigation, etc.;
- respond to a prearranged text message by replying with my location and a link to a Google map, so that (for example) Jenni can check if I'm nearly home without me trying to text or needing to answer the phone while driving.

But there's loads more that you can do, if you want to.

Oh yeah: also Toddler Lock — but that might be of less interest to you...
Nov. 17th, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC)
Oh man, I forgot Tasker. I have it too, and it is indeed awesome. The hardest part is working out exactly what tasks to set when. I like some of your ideas, and may well adopt a few. Mine are:
- Silent when plugged into the mains (as it is every night), except for alarms (obviously) and voice calls (which might be an emergency).
- Only auto-sync mail and such when connected to wifi.
- Screen normally dimmed, but switching to brighter if the ambient light is too high.
Nov. 19th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
My main use is to switch to silent when it spots the school wifi network in school time otherwise I either get random text messages or no text messages at all because I forget to put it back on :-)
Nov. 18th, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
I had had the Androminion recommended to me before, but annoyingly the link still doesn't work for me :(
Thanks for your other recommendations!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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