June 20, 2012

The Android Trilogy Part C) The right Aps

(Updated 6/20, New Ap Discussions below: Dolphin and DropBox)
(This is the third posting in my ABC's of Android:  A) The right gear, B) the right provider and data plan, and C) the right "Aps". You can find parts A and B posted previous to this one. Comments are welcome, even encouraged. Ken Mitton)

C) The right Aps.

When you get Aps for your smart phone, I recommend that you stick with the Google Play application to read about and download the latest Aps you want to try. This is the Google Ap site, now named "Google Play". If you do not know already, you should also be aware that your phone has two areas of memory that you can use to store and run your programs. There is memory on your phone's mother board, and there is memory on removable SD memory cards. Your phone may have come with a 2-Gigabyte microSD card, but I highly recommend going to Walmart or Bestbuy and getting a cheap 8-Gigabyte microSD card. More if you wish. You can have your phones camera/photo gallery software store your pics and movies on the SD card. You can also move installed Aps to the SD card memory. This is important, because most smart phones are made with insufficient internal memory. The problem arises when some Aps are not able to run unless they only installed in the phone's main internal memory.

The ability to install on the SD card memory is really the choice of the programmer/s who make the Ap. Thus, you cannot move some programs, programs you may want to keep on your phone, to the SD card memory. At some point, your memory to run and operate your phone and applications becomes full and things stop working well or will not run when you need them.

These are the Aps that I use currently that have no additional cost, and are a combination of what comes installed with Android 2.2.2 on the Optimus V, and programs I installed from Google-Play. I will build this blog post over several days, so you can check back and see more information on handy Aps that I find to be stable, useful, and when possible Aps that will install onto your SD memory card. Also, these Aps have free functional versions.

1) "Lookout Security and Antivirus", by Lookout Inc. Get this Ap, because it provides a basic virus and malware scanner that guards your system from computer viruses. It also scans your downloads, including new applications you install automatically. Lookout also emails a report each week to your email on your phone status, and can back up some items on your phone each week, all in the background.

2) Also from Lookout Inc., get their "Ad Network Detector". Many free Aps run ads, and I do not mind the Ads that pop into the bottom of the main screen, those are ok with me. But some Aps have add push services that pop stuff into your top information bar even when the Ap is no long running. Ads sometimes show up in other annoying ways. Some of the Aps that came preinstalled on my phone do this too, but they are locked Aps which you cannot delete. Fortunately, most of the ad service companies (there are almost a hundred of them now), have ways to exclude your phone from ads and you can unsubscribe or block the ads. The Ad Network Detector Ap not only scans your programs to find the Ad services hidden in your phone, but it gives you instructions on how to turn them off. This is an excellent Ap. The Lookout Inc. Aps above will only install in your phone memory, but they are worthy of using that precious memory.

3) "Skype" - video/audio conferencing. I have used it with up to five people for up to 1 hour, many times. Pick one of you to be the moderator so you do not talk all at once. This will install on your SD card. If you go to setting panel in your phone, and to manage applications, you can select any application and if it is movable to the SD card memory, the button to do that will be available. Just move it. Skype runs just fine from that location. Skype calls over WiFi are free to other Skype users. Keep in mind that if you are Skyping over 3G or 4G data of your phone service, you are using data time. My service is an unlimited data option from Virgin Mobile ($35/month data unlimited, and 300 minutes of anytime talk; I never talk more than 300 minutes / month on my phone. I use the Skype for long meetings of 1 hour.)

4) "Super tool box 10+". This program will also only install in your phone memory, but gives you many essential tools and functions. First, it has subroutines to do things like clear free memory. During the day, your Aps can load and reserve memory they are not really using, and you can get that memory free again for new program runs. There is a battery monitor that gives you a break down of all the time dedicated to different tasks such as video playback, audio, talk time, idle time, web surfing etc. The App2SD feature lets you see lists of programs you have on your phone memory and on your SD card. Also, shows you programs in your phone memory that you can move to the SD card. There is also a tool to list programs that are keeping cache files and you can delete the caches if you wish. You also get a filemanager for browsing and moving files, making new folders etc. The App2SD function is the one I use the most and also the free memory function. Free version has small ads a bottom only. You can go adfree if you wish for a small price. The best feature of this Ap, is that it notifies you after you install a new program if it is movable to your SD card memory, and gives you a fast link to the application management panel for the Ap so you can move it right away.

5) "Astro File Manager". This file manager is focused on just that. Managing and moving your files around. You can view files as icons or in lists, you can select single or multiple files, you can copy move and delete files, you can search for files, make new folders/directories, and look into your network connections to other files. Astro can be moved to your SD card memory. While you can manage files in Super tool box 10+, the features of Astro are better and easier to use for file management. It will not take up precious internal phone memory and is a relatively tiny program. So get it.

6) "Gmail".  Need we say more? I prefer Gmail these days to my other accounts, although I still have a yahoo account for rare use and my own mail service.  My workplace (Oakland University), smartly contracted Google to provide email service and then email became carefree at work. Youtube is very useful for fun videos, those I post playing guitar and those I watch to learn more guitar, share interests, and fix my dryer or car. Youtube is part of the Google system, as is Google Drive and Google Site and this blog site you are reading now (blogger). The integration of these tools has landed me happily in the Gmail email system. I can use the Gmail account with the Mail program on my MacBook, and the Android Gmail Ap accesses all my Gmail based accounts. I can set how many days to keep synced for each account, the program is nice for  spending some boring moments in waiting rooms or long meetings quickly dealing with email, so I have less to to when working on the computer. Gmail may already be part of the Android system on your phone, or you can get it from the Google Play site. You should already have a Google Play Ap on your central desk top. Gmail is phone-only memory, but again it is worthy to be there for you will likely do more work on your phone with this Ap than any other. Gmail, handles mail with attachments quite well, and will hand off PDFs and Word Docs to viewers integrated into Android and Gmail Ap.

7) "Adobe Reader". Speaking of PDFs, also get yourself the official Adobe Reader Ap. It will let you look at most any kind of PDF file. Of course, most PDFs are made for computer screen sized reading or printed reading. Still, this Ap can give you other quick viewing options by taping near the top of the document you are viewing. There are several symbolic menus, play with them to see what they do, but one lets you choose the view method. View methods include: Continuous, Single Page, Text Reflow and Automatic. Automatic may guess the best way to view, but Text Reflow takes the wide columns of text and flows them into your phone screen. I use this to read through magazine layout styles of scientific papers, and you can zoom in and out on graphics and figures. You can also add comments to PDFs you may be asked to proof for a publisher, right here on your phone. You can also Share the PDF from Adobe Reader, and the share menu will automatically populate the selection menu with all the available sharing routes in your current phone collection. These might include, Gmail, Evernote-Create Note, Dropbox, Bluetooth and Skype.

New Ap discussion June 20th >>>>>   8) "Dolphin Browser". This web browser is quite excellent for Android phones and similar to FireFox on your computer, this browser has a growing collection of add on modules to expand the browser's capability. What is to love? First of all, this Ap can be moved to your SD card, and it can keeps it cache folder also on your SD card, saving your phone memory. It is a fast browser, and opens with a bookmark tab where you can set some quick links to favorite webpages. Swiping the interface to the right opens a menu on the side to access and edit bookmarks. Swiping to the left, opens the add ons menu. There are nice add ons for saving web pages as PDFs, making posts into your twitter account fast and easily, even for killing other running aps that may be hogs for your working memory at that moment. This browser is about the best for viewing full sites (non-mobile versions) in high detail. A double tap on the part of the page of interest causes its text to zoom in and flow into your window width automatically. Double tap again to zoom out. When zoomed in, you can drag the page around to move to another section. Graphics flow nice and smooth on my humble, moderately powered, phone. If you really like to use audio searching, Dolphin has an audio interpreter function that brings up a studio-microphone icon and interprets your requests to search or go to information on the internet. They call it "Sonar" of course. Search, navigate and share are some of the commands you can use by voice. Dolphin can also sync your bookmarks between devices. This browser is also available on iPhone and is customized for phone or iPads, touch pads.

9) "DropBox". George Carlin used to tell us about STUFF. I love that talk, find him on YouTube. Got stuff? Files to store, share or move? Are you a sad and miserable user of Apple's iDisc. Sad that iDisc has been dumped for the Cloud? So am I. The Cloud system that Apple provides with their newest OS to push and match your pictures and music between all your Apple devices is nice, but this system does not give you a way to share files not made by Apple programs. I have lots of those. Files such as Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, text-based data files ( I am a scientist), graphics files not handled by iPhoto, files that belong to special programs like MacVector. I have relied on iDisc for 10 years to centrally cache my lab's management files and make them accessible from many workstations in my lab spaces for my students and staff. It was really the first popular Cloud. I am not planning to move all my documents, slide shows, spreadsheets from Microsoft Office programs to Apple's programs any time soon. Pages is nice, and so is Keynote, but the fact is that 99% of the people I have to share and work with from the US, Canada, UK, Germany, China and Japan, all use Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Most conferences do not let you hook up your own laptop to make a presentation, and they typically have only PowerPoint ready to go on the meeting presentation computers. Where oh where can I keep a few gigs of stuff? DropBox. If you already use DropBox, you know that you can install a program on your Mac, Windows or Linux system and have a DropBox folder in your home account folder. Anything you put into that folder, gets synced to your DropBox in the Cloud. Any other device you have with DropBox can be logged in automatically with the same account to sync the DropBox folders between all your devices and the Cloud. The DropBox Ap for Android gives you fast access to your Cloud DropBox folder. It interfaces with the Cloud version so you do not have to wait long to see what is synced. It does not create a DropBox folder on your phone, so you do not have to worry about 5 gigs of stuff pushed down to your phone. You can use other services like Google Drive, but the later will not run on Mac OS systems prior to 10.5 (such as Tiger). DropBox will run on Tiger. It also runs in Windows and yes... Linux too! You can make your DropBox account at the following link:


Your first two GIGS are free. The mobile Ap gives fast access to folders and files and also permits me to quickly generate a sharing link from my phone. I often work with a team using neural networks to solve data prediction problems, and we have big files of data that sometimes are not easy to email. DropBox lets me share an entire folder with them, which I can then update with files and let my team mates access them at their convenience. The DropBox Ap also uploads files from my phone into my Cloud DropBox. They are then pushed down automatically to my DropBox on my MacBook and other computers. Sweet!

This is Wed June 20 th, watch for more Aps in this post through the week.

That is all for now, check back to this post as I add more.

Ken Mitton

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