Running Developers Away Are We…


One thing I pride myself on is being honest. I like to point out the strong assets of Android and its community, and there are many. But I also feel I bring to light those things that tarnish Android and its community.

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Many of you know I was on hiatus a bit while my phone was broken. In the meantime I was using Casey’s (@oka_xda on Twitter) HD2 that he loaned me. I flashed MIUI because of all the bells and whistles it offers – allowing a user to not need certain apps. Apps like those that take screenshots.

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Well, now I have a Galaxy S 4G, compliments to Samsung and @SamsungJohn. I was excited at first, and then realized quickly how much of a setback I was facing. No longer would I have my community, the ROMs, the tweaks, 15GB of internal memory… and worst, no CM7 or MIUI.

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Day 1 I root and flash Valhalla. Whitehawkx did a fabulous job. I wanted to show it off on Twitter by sending out some screenshots. Off to grab my favorite screenshot app over the past 2+ years, ShootMe.

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Hmm… this is odd. I look it up in the Market, and there is a big yellow exclamation mark at the top that reads something to the effect of the app no longer being available. WTF? Okay, my backup was the app DropCap. A quick search revealed it too was no longer available. I am stumped.

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Why would two, extremely popular apps, that were free suddenly be gone? Was Google striking down on screen capture apps? Maybe Google had this feature they were going to roll out in Ice Cream Sandwich, so they were removing these from the Market.

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These are the thoughts that poured through my head.

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Nope. Turns out the developer of ShootMe was just fed up with rude people. To be honest, I don’t blame him from some of the comments. I don’t understand how someone can be so rude to a developer (or anyone) who is offering a service for free – when almost always it is the fault of the end-user, not the developer or the app.

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If you cannot read, maybe you have a case. I’d certainly be more lenient to someone who was truly that dumb over someone who just refuses to read an app description…. Oh, this app needs root access to work? I guess I want cuss the developer out after all. Oh, if I uninstall and reinstall it works fine… it was just me restoring the backup+data that was to blame, my bust. Nope…. instead they threaten and cuss.

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Anyway, this post could go on and on… all I need to say is, be courteous. If you have an app you appreciate, go give it a good rating and leave a comment. If you have an app that is NOT working, send the developer a HELPFUL email – don’t leave it on the comments where it won’t help your cause.

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On more than a few occasions I have done just that. I’d email them nicely, identifying the issue and offering to help if possible. Almost always, and by anticipation (because I would trouble shoot first), I would get an email saying something to the effect “hey, sorry about that… can you send a logcat?”

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I would – maybe a week later (once the same day) there would be an app update that fixed the issue. We are a community. Do your part. Don’t just vent and run talented people offering their services for free away. Clearly we have already lost one of my favorites.

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That is NOT what Android or this community is about, or what it should become.

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I’d like this message spread. I wont say that you need to spread this post, but you can lead by example.

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Go do the right thing. You will feel good for it. Thanks.

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Q&A With A Developer – Jellette from EDT


Below is a Q&A with the founder of EDT, from early June. It was never finished but I felt it was good enough to post. Hope that you enjoy it.

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One of my favorite articles in the short life of this blog has been the Q&A with Roman. Today I am pleased to not just have another Q&A, but one with the leader of Einherjar Development Team (EDT), Jellette from XDA (aka Heathen).

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My intent is for you to really get to know the person, and the work they put into making your phone better. I will preface this article by saying that I was really shocked by some of the responses. I hope that you enjoy it. I will make my questions/comments in bold to help distinguish.

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Jellette, I truly appreciate you taking the time to sit down and answer some questions. I received a ton of really positive feedback from the Q&A with Roman, who is on your team of developers.

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Before we start talking about Android and developing, could you share a little about yourself… your name, where you went to school, those types of things…

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Well, my name is James and I’m a 39 year old (40 next week…), happily married, father of three – ages 4, 12 and 21!

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I was born in Redondo Beach, Ca. and have lived pretty much everywhere. I did my high schooling in Derby KS, Las Vegas and Tulsa Ok. After HS one of my brothers and I moved to NYC for about a year after that, I bounced around a bit and finally settled back in Tulsa where I am still living.

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If you are not at work or working on Android, what do you enjoy doing – got hobbies?

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I spend that time with my family. My hobbies are all computer related with the exception of my ocd-ish hunt for religious hats – I have no idea why… Need kippot or kufi, I’m your guy!

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What is your “real” job? I’m going to go on a limb and assume it’s something related to programming based off your skill set.

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Right and wrong. My main “real” job is as an emergency technician for a natural gas company. On the side I do web hosting and development for a glass company based in St. Louis, and run an ebay business.

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I always like to ask about music… right or wrong, it is an easy way to label people. I think most would be surprised that I am a huge Blues/ Jam / Bluegrass kind of guy… So, what are 5 bands/groups that you’ve really been digging lately? When you are working on Android do you listen to a certain genre?

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Here’s a shocker for you, the “Heathen” mainly listens to Christian music!

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Beer, Wine, or Liquor?

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Another shocker for you, I don’t drink at all. But when I used to drink, it was Heineken Warsteiners and Chaucers Honey Mead. I’m a pretty “pure” guy who doesn’t drink, eat red meat or take medicine – not even aspirin or antacids.

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Throw out another random thing that people might be surprised to learn about you… other than the Heathen is a Christian.

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I can read and somewhat speak Arabic, Farsi, German Vietnamese and Hebrew. I speak and read Spanish fluently.

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If there was one thing you could learn to do, that you cannot currently… what would it be?

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Kerneling like Curtis (Cmenard) or Java like Roman (birgertime). They are the best at what they do, period.

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I think having that background info is really nice. It’s so nice to really get to know the person who works so hard to improve our phones, essentially for nothing. So, thank you for that. Now, lets talk Android some.

The first thing that pops into my head, HOLY SMOKES, I have the person who started Team EDT (Einherjar Development Team) talking to me… so, obvious question… what prompted you to start EDT?

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Short and sweet: Roman made me!

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History: I started my developing on the Team Whiskey (TW) site in my section, called “Heathens Repo”, inside the donators only area. I’m sure someone knows better than me, but I think my first Rom was sXe.

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After being on TW for a while I decided to make the move to XDA. Everything went great until I released PepperKake. That ROM was attacked as a kanged TW release. At the same time my repo over at TW was deleted. I was devastated and in a childish move I removed everything I had from XDA.

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Along comes Roman… He makes me give him the cpanel info to sxeweb and puts me back to work as he sets a site up for me. After several attempts to get him to develop, he finally gave in and joined me. I’ll also mention it was that way with all of the EDT developers, they made me ask them repeatedly until they joined!

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Anyway, if you go back to my early roms, they were all named in a Norse manner. So it only made sense to me that if I was going to make a comeback after kanging out as a dev, and form a team, we would be the Einherjar.

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You know the rest.

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Since you are the head honcho, do you oversee all the projects for EDT, or do you just help your team out when they have questions on their own projects? How does the whole “team” thing work?

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We do not police each other. We help where needed. Roman and Jon (whitehawk) work real close together on their projects and I pretty much stay out of their way. Same with Dan (Dan Brutal) and Demiurgic.

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If someone has the skill set and was interested, how would they join EDT?

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The best way in, is as a themer – someone who wants to expand their skill set. Especially now that Dan has moved up from mainly theming to taking over the Bi-Winning rom. I am, however, always looking for an understudy.

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What is your favorite thing about developing for Android?

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The feedback from people. I’m an attention whore I suppose.

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Do you have a favorite developer or someone you credit for getting you started?

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I give credit to Sombionix foremost as my inspiration.

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What project(s) have you been working on lately?

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I have quite a few unreleased roms right now.

Droid Charge port.

SK4g Port.

Optimus3D / kb5 hybrid.

Plus, plus.

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Donations. What do they mean to you? Do you make a lot from donations?

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I do not personally accept donations. I instructed Roman in the beginning that donations to me were to be split amongst EDT members.

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Jellette, thank you for taking the time man. It’s pretty amazing that you spend your free time away from work, hobbies, family and collecting religious hats to improve what is a vital part of most peoples lifes (well, if they are reading this blog anyway)…. Their phone. You’re an amazing talent and we all appreciate what you do for us. Thanks for letting people learn a little more about you.

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Alright, there were many other questions that we just never got around to answering. Jellete and I both have very busy schedules… heck, up until recently my last blog post was in July. Hope that you guys understand… I will say the Q&A with Roman was pretty great, so if you are in the mood to learn more about a great developer, check that Q&A out too – it is on the blog.

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Thanks!

Marketing Matters….


I try very hard to write about Android, but not sound like a fanboi idiot spouting nonsense – I try. I keep my ear to the ground to see what other things are happening in the mobile world… and I also try and point out others strengths or Android’s weaknesses.

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This morning I got slapped in the face with one of those glaringly obvious weaknesses of Android… which coincidently is the strong point of Apple – *drum roll* the Marketing.

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Android Police is a great site. If you do not read them now, check them out. They ran a brief article this morning that captured a great example of my concerns. I’ll break it down, but here is their full article:

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To summarize, the author noted a Best Buy ad on TV at the break of a very popular show (FYI, Breaking Bad is amazing). It was touting the speed and network reliability of Verizon, while showing off Android. Well, that sounds great doesn’t it? Nagh.

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The problem? The Android device shown was ROAMING! Seriously?!?!

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Hey world… come buy this phone that is roaming on the supposed best network… oh, it also does not have a full battery in the ad, must drain a lot…. It also is showcasing the crap Verizon bloat… not the potential amazing apps that you can get from the Market. Nope, they feel people want VZ Navigator & V Cast Music. OMG!!

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This made me so mad. Not only does it make Verizon and Android look bad, but I realized I could be getting paid a lot more money doing the job that the producer of this ad has. EVERYONE knows that when you display a product you want to market, you put it in the best form possible. Apple certainly knows that. Apple could duct tape a keyboard to a brick, call it an iBrick and sell it.

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For comparisons sake, every Apple ad I have ever seen has greatly annoyed me…. but left me impressed. They have full batteries, they have full signal, and they actually show the device DOING SOMETHING. How many Android commercials have left you impressed because of the phone DOING SOMETHING? I can only think of a couple, and those are Samsung touting the Galaxy line – they seem to get it.

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Alright, getting winded…. My point is this. One of the big setbacks of Android is that Google can’t control their own marketing. Their product has each manufacturer doing their own thing – leaving a very non-cohesive branding of Android. Forget the way over-hyped fragmentation of the OS…. It is the fragmentation in the marketing that is a real issue. I want to punch a person who says they got the latest “Droid” phone. But, that’s great marketing by Motoroloa.

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To the average person, I wonder how these ads come across. You see one Android phone… then you see another that appears completely different. You see roaming and battery drain…. Then you see an Apple ad that makes it look like it fell from Heaven. Which one do you think the average person is going to lean towards?

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I wish Google could do the marketing for Android. Have you seen the Chrome commercials? They are brilliant. Those commercials leave you thinking; wow… this is a great product. Roaming does not.

Champions of The Android Community…


I’ve neglected my blog. It’s been a combination of a crazy personal and work life… that and my Samsung Vibrant was destroyed (long story).

To pass the time without a phone, a reader of this blog / twitter follower / XDA user sent me a phone. Pause…

Yeap, there are people in this community THAT good. Please tell Casey that he is amazing! You can find/follow him on Twitter – @oka_XDA.

But wait, there is more… I’ve been one of the more vocal, at least in the early stages, against Samsung. They just didn’t seem to get it.

Actually, I was so vocal Samsung contacted me… not only did they ask how they could improve, they shared plans that weren’t public at the time on what they were already planning to do to improve their relationship with the Android Community. Color me impressed from that day forward.

Who called you ask? Some guy that nobody knew at the time, John – a developer / social guy for Samsung. (@SamsungJohn on twitter). Now he is one of those that Many in the community are aware of, you should to.

Why bring this all up? I’m going to leave out some details, but in short… I sent my phone to Samsung… unable to charge… Battery nearly dead (couldn’t odin to stock)… with a corroded charging port… not surprisingly, they sent it back, unrepaired.

Scratching my head on how to proceed & a bit upset (even though I didn’t expect a repair), I reached out to those in the community who have proven to be helpful… John was one of those people.

John had a representative call me within 20 minutes of my tweet to him… Not just that, they are sending me a Vibrant, no questions asked.

You can say what you want, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know… A rule that’ll always ring true.

In the case of Android, it’s just knowing the Community and offering help when you can.

I try to drop what i’m doing to help others, and it has been paid back plus some.

I’ve always championed the Community… I am eternally grateful and hope that I can one day feel others good deeds to me are deserved.

People don’t just overnight phones to strangers so they can take pictures at a music festival… People don’t read a tweet at night, drop what they are doing, no questions asked & help someone get a replacement phone…

Well, maybe in THIS ANDROID COMMUNITY THEY DO.

Oh, any Samsung/Sprint employees reading this, I’ve already scheduled time to go meet a stranger who is picking up the new galaxy S2 (the epic touch) at my recommendations. I plan to teach about Android & TouchWiz… and the capabilities of this amazing phone.

Please… Please… Take the time to tweet Casey & John. Let them know how cool they are for being “that guy.”

Casey – @oka_XDA
John – @SamsungJohn

My Top 20 Android Apps For Beginners….


Android apps are essential to the end-users experience. There are several categories of apps, but I am going to ignore some as they are limited in their scope (ie, apps that are games, or are only focused on those who root their phones).

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I believe the average smartphone user is going to want to focus on improving the user interface (apps that are better than the stock apps that come on the phone), social apps (ie Twitter, texting, conferencing), and media apps (ie music, photos, news).

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Below are those categories and the apps that I feel can improve the Android experience.

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Disclaimer: There are hundreds of thousands of Android apps. This is in no way all inclusive and can change daily.

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BETTER THAN THE STOCK ANDROID APPLICATIONS:

Text Messanging:

1 – Go SMS Pro / Handcent SMS / Chomp SMS / Google Voice.

They are all better than the stock messenger, in their own regard. The average user can be complacent with the stock messaging app, it does send texts and MMS (ie pictures) just fine after all, but for the user who wants more, these are the apps to try.

To be fair, Google Voice should not be lumped in here as it does so much. This app should be on every Android device, period.

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Browser:

2 – Dolphin Browser HD / Skyfire / Miren

Wait, three more suggestions? Yeap. Why? Because their all awesome in their own regard. The stock browser I find fantastic, it does what you need and does it well. Again though, Android allows the user to do a lot more.

Dolphin is great because of tabbed browsing, gestures (finger swipes to open bookmarks for example) and multi-touch.

Skyfire emphasizes playing video – even those that are not compatible with Android.

Miren is extremely fast, minimalistic UI, and a lot of neat features (scrolling with the volume button, swipes to go forward/backward, etc).

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Gallery:

3 – QuickPic

I hate the stock android gallery. It is a CPU hog, slow to load and limited in features. It is frankly my least favorite part of Android. QuickPic by Alensw (there are several apps with that name) is amazing. It is extremely fast to load, you can exclude certain albums from displaying, very high resolution/image quality, and built in editing tools (ie cropping, rotating, etc).

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The Launcher (your homescreen):

4 – ADW EX / LauncherPro / Go Launcher EX

There I go again, three suggestions. Most of these have similar features, but each have unique features. I prefer ADW EX because it allows me to use swipe gestures to open my notifications or to open a second hidden dock bar (a place to stash commonly opened apps). This allows my homescreen to be less cluttered. You can customize the layout a lot more as well (ie, instead of the standard 4×4 layout, you can make it as much as 10×10), overlap widgets, infinite scrolling, change animations, etc. The list of options go on and on. I strongly suggest trying a new launcher.

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Camera:

5 – CameraZoom FX / Camera360 / Retro Camera / Little Photo

All of these apps have features above and beyond the stock camera. I prefer Retro Camera because it is free and it also has a very unique UI. I can take some pretty spectacular photos with it, with very little effort. I’m a sucker for black and white photos that have a vintage look though.

A reader also suggested Little Photo – which seems wildly popular but was not known by me – NICE!

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Music:

6 – PowerAMP / UberMusic / TuneIn Radio / Google Music / Amazon MP3

Again, each have unique qualities. PowerAMP is great in that it plays most anything and has an equalizer. UberMusic is just sexy. TuneIn Radio allows you to stream music from all over the world. Google Music is great for its cloud capabilities – I love having my music sync and not be stored on precious memory space. Amazon MP3 also has cloud capabilities and offers free music.

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Dialer / Contacts:

7 –Go Contacts EX

Not every Android has a smart dialer (when you start typing a phone number or contact name, it filters out your results). I find that hard to believe. Go Contacts EX not only has a great smart dialer, but the UI is great too. You can swipe left to right to change from the dialer to contacts for instance. The app can also be themed by simply downloading themes from the Market (most of which are also free)

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Photos:

8 – TouchRetouch / PicSay Pro / Little Photo

We talked about the Camera and the Gallery, but what about editing photos? Ever have something in your shot that you wish wasn’t there. TouchRetouch is essentially a magic eraser for your photos. It’s pretty brilliant for an app on your phone and can easily remove objects.

PicSay Pro is more of an effects tool. It allows a tremendous amount of customization to your photos.

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Keyboards:

9 – Swype Beta / Swiftkey X

Swype is hands down the most revolutionary keyboard out. I was afraid of moving to a phone with no physical keyboard, till I tried Swype. The beta is open and free, and it’s the best keyboard out, in my opinion. Do yourself a favor and register now. Most know that Swype allows you to move from letter to letter (not peck each letter), but it also has a tremendous amount of features. I’ve got a huge guide on this, please contact me if interested. Swiftkey X is another revolutionary keyboard in a different sense. It actively seeks the NEXT word you would type, and it learns as you type. So, the more you use it, the more accurately it can predict your next word. I’ve written entire sentences by simply selecting the word it thought I would use. These are both amazing and something I am certain an iPhone would love to have (avoiding some of the famous auto-correct iPhone typo blunders).

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SOCIAL APPS:

Disclaimer: I despise FaceBook, but their app seems very feature rich with a decent UI.

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10 – Plume

I’ve tried every twitter app out there, and none can touch the power of Plume. Feature rich it won’t let you down. Get this if you use Twitter, or start using twitter if you do not already! I’ve found it to be the best way to get brief bits of news information catered to me. So much so that it’s now my favorite feature of a smartphone.

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11 – GroupMe

A completely free way to keep in contact with a group. Send text messages (with your data plan – not a traditional text message), share photos, conference calling, etc. This is a powerful app that could serve teenagers to the executive on business trips.

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12 – Google+

Say what it really is, a FaceBook killer. Google hit a homerun with their social network in my opinion, and the app is feature rich. Want to have private conversations, or share with the world? Want to instantly sync photos taken from your phone? Want to use an alternate messenger or video chat with up to 9 people? Get it.

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TRAVEL APPS:

13 – Google Maps

The features of Maps is pretty robust, but it is the Navigation that is its strong point in my opinion. I had two Garmin GPS units that became junk when I got my first Android phone. Not only did the Navigation work better (accuracy of turn by turn directions) from my phone, but the GPS signal was more accurate. You can also use Places to find and rate places and Lattitude to locate friends near you.

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14 – Worldmate

Short and sweet, a must if you travel a lot. Forward your confirmation emails and it groups all of your itinerary into an incredibly simple package. Organize your plans, change your itinerary, share your itinerary with people, get flight alerts or check on a flight, get reminders, it locates hotels near you and even brings in the weather. Seriously, if you travel, try this!

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MISCELLANEOUS APPS:

15 – Beautiful Widgets / Fancy Widgets

Another benefit of Android is the widgets – an easy to find and attractive thing to have on your homescreen with relevant information. I enjoy knowing the time and weather near me, and these apps give it accurately and in an attractive way that can be easily themed to my liking.

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16 – Alarm Clock Plus

If you use your smartphone as your alarm, for lunch or sleep – this is the one to try. Feature rich and known as one of the best. This will be better than the stock Alarm on the phone and incorporates weather.

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17 – Amazon’s Appstore

There are many nice features about Amazon’s Appstore, including their review process (added security perhaps over the Android Market), but lets be honest… its best feature is that they offer a paid app for free every day. Sometimes these apps are pretty amazing too. On more than one occasion I have went and bought the app in the official Android Market when I wanted to show my support to a developer.

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18 – Chrome to Phone

If you use Android, there is a strong chance Chrome is your browser on your PC. This dandy of an app allows you to press the button on your PC’s browser (using the Chrome to Phone extension), and instantly that page/document/download link will show on your phone. Amazingly simply and powerful.

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19 – Wheres My Droid

Are you one that easily misplaces their phone? Once installed, this app lets you send a text to your phone if it’s misplaced to help locate it. What if you left your phone on silent… what if you are not near it? Well, not only does it turn the volume to max (just in case), but it also lets you get the GPS coordinates if you REALLY misplaced it. A must have on any Android in my opinion.

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20 – Astro File Manager

With Android you have the ability to view and move files around. This is the best way to manage your files, make backups of important files, open zip/tar files, allow downloads from the browser, etc. Frankly, every Android phone should come with a file manager, but they do not. Even if your phone did come with a file manager, there is a strong chance that it is not as good as Astro File Manager.

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This list is no way inclusive. There are MANY apps that I use daily that did not get a mention. Perhaps I will make an extended list with more categories next time. I would appreciate your feedback. If you know someone new to Android, shoot them a link to this… I’d love to hear what someone new to Android thought of this list.

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Thanks!!

Data Integrity – Check Those MD5’s


Data Integrity… It’s Important.

I’m sure many of you like to flash ROMs on your phone. That means you’ve all seen a developer give a MD5 Sum below the download link of their ROM. ROMs can be anywhere from 80-200+ MBs. They are large.

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Alright, so… do you know what the heck this long string of number is used for AND how important they are? If so… you can quit reading. If not, this is for you and it could really save you some headaches down the road.

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From Wikipedia: The MD5 (Message-Digest Algorithm) is a widely used cryptographic hash function that produces a 128-bit (16-byte) hash value. MD5 is commonly used to check data integrity.

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Great, thanks for the long definition Callip – Why should I care?

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Well, next time you ODIN to JFD (or download a ROM) you will care a lot if you have issues. Having written many guides for the Vibrant on how to ODIN to JFD, how to root and how to flash ROMs, I get a lot of questions sent my way… and a lot of the time, it is simply a bad download. From ODIN hanging to issues with ROMs… often it’s simply a bad download.

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If this was checked BEFORE flashing your phone you could save yourself a lot of time and a headache. The best part – it is incredibly easy to check an MD5 Sum.

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My preferred method is using HashTab (Download Link). It is free, it is easy, and it’s available for Windows and Mac. Simply download and install it.

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How do you use it? That’s the easy part.

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When you download a ROM to your PC, all that is required is to right-click on the file. Then click on the tab “File Hashes” – it will scan and generate the MD5 (as well as other hashes not used).

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Now, copy the MD5 that your thoughtful developer put under his download link and paste it into the “Hash Comparison” box. Click the “Compare” button…. It lets you know if your file is in good order. If all good, flash away sailor… if not, delete the file and download again because you do NOT want to flash that on your phone.

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If this helped, share it (please)… happy flashing.

Are You An Android Activist? Win A Free Phone…


Android Activist is giving away a free T-Mobile LG G2X.

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The best part – to win, all that you need to do is write a 500 word entry of what you feel being an Android Activist is – and how you are one. There are legalities (required by law) like being over 18 – only in the US, ladi-da.

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Alright, so why am I mentioning this on my blog?

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Well, I found this to be an extremely clever idea. So much so that I have submitted an article (pasted below for you). I would love a chance to win this phone… but I also would love all of you to have that chance.

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I also feel that if you sit down and start typing you are going to reflect on the Android Community and what it means to you. It would be very cool to me to know that one of my readers one a free phone because of my blog – honestly. So, please… do better than me, win this free phone from Android Activist.

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Also, I know many of my readers followed my from the Vibrant section at XDA – Both Roman and Whitehawk have the G2X. The phone is rumored to have issues (Class Action Lawsuit was just filed)…. but others seemingly see no issues at all. I’d imagine CyanogenMod 7 would fix any ills it has, ha.

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Please go check their site out. Here is a direct link to the contest. You can find them on Twitter at @AndroidActivist as well. Be sure and let them know what you think.

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Below is my entry to the contest. I verified with them I could publish it and not be disqualified. I won’t lie; I’d appreciate it if you guys sent them a tweet if you feel I’d be a good person to win… I’ll make some guides on XDA / RootzWiki, haha. Okay enough promoting… my entry:

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To proclaim yourself an Android Activist – and one worthy of a free phone at that, well that is a tall order. Am I worthy of this honor? Well, lets first define what an Android Activist consists of. In the context of Android – I believe this is someone who advocates for the entire Android Community, and for no reason other than they feel that it is the Right thing to do.

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It’s not just about paying for apps, rather than using 3rd party app sites to get them for free – it is promoting the work of someone you’ve never met, because you appreciate their talent and time.

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It’s not about reading about malware found on 3rd party app sites or trying to ban people together to shut down a site that is charging people for others work, that does not give credit – It is about going on radio shows to help spread the warning! Trying to tell those who may not be as familiar about the importance of using legitimate App Stores – checking App Permissions and not paying for ROMs.

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It’s not about just answering questions on XDA or RootzWiki, or simply searching before creating a thread – it is about writing guides for the “noobs” that you meticulously go over. Making certain they are as clear as possible… adding in pictures and videos just to help clarify certain steps – and not feeling satisfied when one of your guides has over 100,000 views. Maybe it is also about spending hours at a time texting with complete strangers, simply because it is their first time rooting or flashing their phone and they need some hand-holding.

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It is not about sending a $5 donation to a developer every now and then – it is about creating a blog where you can interview them. You get to share with the community a side of these guys and gals most never see – you point out their work and family life that is often overlooked by the end-user. You remind people just how valuable these developers are to our community – that this work is done in their spare time, for free. You encourage the absolute utmost respect for them and you expect none in return.

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It is not about complaining about the next version of Android, that is not released on your phone yet – it is about creating a public relations / social media blitz on a mass scale, with a very well organized and clear message. A message so loudly yelled that the phone manufacturer contacts you to address the concerns, and a week later the phone gets an OS update. Maybe people credit you for this due to your efforts, but deep down you know it’s because of the community, the community that you love and advocate for.

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These are some of the things that I have done for our community. They were done simply because I love the Android Community that much. These are not the reasons that I should win a free phone though. I would consider this a success if just one of you who reads this will also become an Android Activist with me.

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My name is Callip. You may know me as s15274n or @CallipH if I have helped you in the past. I am an Android Activist. I encourage you, please join me.

 

All Your App Permissions Are Belong To Us….


Android Police provided a poll recently that asked a very basic question. Do You Actually Read the App Permissions Before Accepting?

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I just knew that people were going to say “yes.” I said to myself, what a dumb question. Well, I was floored by the response. There is no explanation that my tiny brain can come up with that supports the polls results.

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As of 1AM 7/19/11 those results are:

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  • Sometimes – depends on the app. (49%, 696 Votes)
  • No. I like to live life on the edge, baby! (24%, 344 Votes)
  • Yes. I’m pretty uptight about security all around. (16%, 222 Votes)
  • Yes. The Market is too much like the Wild West right now. (11%, 160 Votes)

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You are kidding me, right? Nearly 75% of those who voted (and it’s likely higher – nobody likes to admit to doing something wrong) said NO or just sometimes. Insert shock face.

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App Permissions are important guys. You need to analyze (Edit, removed “scrutinize” to not sound too harsh) them when installing apps. It’s not hard, just ask yourself for each permission – why does this app need to be able to do this?

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Hopefully you can quickly say to yourself, oh… it’s a free app, it must need the Internet for ads. Oh, this app sends a text message, that’s why it needs access to my contacts. If you can’t justify it, especially if it’s not a well known app – Email the developer and ask! They do not bite.

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Please only buy / download your apps from legit Markets (Google, Amazon, etc) and NOT from the 3rd party sites (those that offer Paid apps for a monthly fee or that insert app permissions the developer didn’t originally request). Most of the malware has been found on those 3rd party sites. The official Market has certainly had what I consider “many” of their apps removed for being malicious too though. It’s not immune to these concerns.

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Okay, but what if you do not know what the App Permissions really mean….

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Yeah, I agree with you. That is Google’s fault it my eyes. They gave us just enough information, but not enough to really understand. So, below is a list of the permissions that I typically question the most:

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Your personal information – read contact data

Remember to ask yourself, why would this app need this? Does it allow you to share a link / file / location with your friends via email or text? Yes? Well, that makes sense. If the app does not have this functionality…. well, I’d certainly wonder why it needed to read my contacts information.

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Phone calls – read phone state and identity

I’m certain you have all seen this one. It is used way too often. Phone state would be for times when you are playing a game, and your phone rings. Okay, I am cool with that – but my phone identity? This could allow an app to see your IMEI and if it also asked for Internet Access, well, who knows what it could do. Developers can use this for many reasons, mostly legit reasons… but I want to feel comfortable with the app / developer before I grant access to it. I’ve read this app is required to support Android 1.5 (Cupcake) which is less than 3% of users – some developers just opt to not include support for 1.5 (hey Fragmentation). I’ve also read this was common because the Droid 2 (and several others) from Motorola all were released with the exact same unique (ha) identifier. Well, if an app has targeted ads (many do) then they are not able to support your phone unless they can find a unique identifier to your phone. I plan to write more on this at a later date (researching it more).

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Network communication – full internet access

Does the app have ads? If so… obvious here. If not and there doesn’t seem to be a need, question it. I am very sensitive when this and my phone identity is combined with full Internet access. Again, I’m not saying it is wrong, and very rarely do I say to myself that I will refuse to get an app (or update one)… but I use caution. I read the privileges that I am granting.

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Now, my suggestions for Google to improve…

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Why in the world do the descriptions have to be so vague? Not only are they too vague, but to make matters worse they lump things together. It would be nice if they were broken up and better defined in their description.

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For example, the permission Phone calls – read phone state and identity.

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It would be awesome if Phone State and Phone Identity were two separate permissions! One is of NO concern to me (ie, playing a game and the phone rings), the other is HUGE (oh, Russia, here is my IMEI, have fun). Unfortunately for developers, this permission is often needed….

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The problem there is that means those who want to cause harm can get away with it more easily, because you are accustomed to it. You are used to seeing an app need your phones identity, because some apps need to read your phone state (and not your identity).

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Closing thoughts… Please (especially if I am in your Contacts, ha) check the App Permissions… please email developers if you question something… please tell Google that you want to see Permissions better defined and broken up. Oh, and please help spread the word about my blog. This is pointless if people don’t get exposed to it… I certainly appreciate feedback and linking to my articles! Thank you guys!

Is Apple Better Than Android?


The user interface (UI) is the space where interaction between humans and machines occurs. The goal of interaction between a human and a machine at the user interface is effective operation and control of the machine, and feedback from the machine which aids the operator in making operational decisions.

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This is the definition from Wikipedia. I am bringing this up again for a few reasons… I am too tired and concerned to talk about patents. I believe this is something Google and Manufacturers need to pay better attention to. I also received a tweet from a very popular writer on Mobile Tech topics.

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He sent a generic tweet that he uses Android (phone) and Android/WebOS (tablets), but when someone asked for a recommendation, he responded with “iPhone” or “iPad.”

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I admitted to the iPad suggestion – I’ve openly bashed Honeycombs UI. It really is not ready for mainstream… but why an iPhone over an Android phone? We have better hardware (similarly priced phones) and better (or the same) networks… I just didn’t get it. I asked him for the logic and if he just “assumed people are dumb?”

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His response was that these people just want to use their phone… this made me sit back and think. Do people really have a better experience with an iPhone over an Android if it’s merely being used as a phone (because anyone interested in customizing has no argument – Android is better)?

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Both seem to have a power button, both seem to have icons for the Phone and Contacts. Both have the ability to easily download apps (I believe the Android version is better)…. I don’t get it. What makes the iPhone better for a user with no interest in development/ROMs/rooting?

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It’s the polish of the UI.

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There is nothing iPhone can do that Android cannot. But when the icons and graphics look pretty, it’s amazing what the perceived value is. It’s just like the Apple marketing – eye catching and cleverly done. I will give nothing but praise to Apple here – they are the absolute best at making their product look… well, better than it is.

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Android has been out long enough to where this should be a moot point. It’s not evolving though, not fast enough anyway. I’m hopeful that Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) will remedy this.  Google I/O honestly did not provide enough of a glimpse, so my faith is blindly guided by the positive hype that surrounded it – and it somehow helping the fragmentation issue of Android.

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Before I get too far down that road (getting side-tracked), I wanted to ask you… what makes for a good UI in your eyes?

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Is it pretty buttons… fancy-smancy animations or is it just common-sense knowing what/where to press? I picked up Android having not owned a phone for several years prior. That may surprise a lot of you…. I actually enjoyed the fact I could remember peoples phone #’s. I was in college at the time, so I used AOL IM (wow) and my feet to actually have interactions.  I was basically a Grandpa when I got my first smartphone… I say that because there was nothing challenging to me about navigating the G1. It was clear to me how it worked and I had never even held a smartphone.

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Oh, Menu > Settings for settings… Oh, either press or long-press on something… oh, the notification bar pulls down to show me notifications… Oh, the Market has apps I can download by pressing “Install.” Honestly, what is so hard about this?

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Nothing. Which leads me to believe Apple’s success comes from crazy good PR and pretty icons. And those are two things Android lacks. Say what you will about custom UI’s like Sense, TouchWiz, etc… but you can’t deny they bring polish and features that should just be a part of Android.

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How do I know I am right? The most popular (over 500 million installs) custom ROM out there, CM7 incorporates a lot of these custom UI’s features. One of my favorite features of CM7 is the Notification bar and the toggle switches – unmistakably inspired by TouchWiz. Ironic that most of those guys bash Samsung, but that’s another rant. I do wish they would incorporate the Smart Dialer… it’s so incredibly nice to start typing the first few #s / letters and it sort and show your results.

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Let me know what you think. Is there more than the UI that accounts for Apple’s success? Does it really do things better? Am I completely off my rocker and a total Google Fanboi? I really want to know what you think about the lack of effort shown by Google to make the UI better too.