Tuesday, November 2, 2010

OWA doesn't let you mark messages as unread?

This is a RANT - has nothing to do with Android

Unfortunately, my company uses Exchange and OWA for remote access to email.
OWA doesn't let you mark a message as unread (or rather requires you to buy a premium version to do so).


Wonder what it will take my company to move to gmail?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why don't the phone companies allow cheaper roaming for data?

I was travelling abroad recently. What I love about Blackberry and hated about Android, was that with BB, I pay my phone company an extra $10 per month and they automatically allow me to roam all over the world with great data access.

For Android, the best my carrier would do, was kindly offer to charge me $15/MB - which basically means I need to be paranoid about data....

Why can't carriers do something similar to BB - charge me $10 per month and allow me worldwide roaming. They would actually make more money and I would actually use my Android phone when I was abroad.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Great article on how to specify whether you need some hardware for an app

Love this article! Android has done it just right. Let me tell the OS what features I need and which ones are nice to have. Then let me dynamically detect what is available on the phone and degrade gracefully!



Friday, October 1, 2010

Installing the new Google CarHome and StreetView on CyanogenMod (CM6)

Warning: Geeky entry - if you don't use CyanogenMod on your Android phone, please ignore

Have CyanogenMod 6.0 on my NexusOne. Heard about the new release of Google's CarHome app and decided I needed to have it. Tried installing it from the Android market, but got a signature failure. Searched around the web, but couldn't find instructions. Was impatient, so decided I needed to do this for myself.

Remembered seeing an earlier post on how to get Google Voice Search on CM6, so pretty much copied the instructions for that, along with this great post by Diane Hackborn on getting the package name from an apk, to create the following command sequence:

adb pull /system/app/ ~/Desktop/app/
adb remount
adb shell
cd /system/app
rm -f CarHomeGoogle.apk
pm uninstall com.google.android.carhome
rm -f  Street.apk
pm uninstall com.google.android.street

You can create appropriate instructions if you don't have adb and just have Terminal.....

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Apps I love on my Nexus One

There are a huge host of apps I love on my Nexus One. I will just provide one-liners about the apps....
The ordering is alphabetical, because that is the easiest way for me to get through my apps....

I am running on CyanogenMod 6 (a modified kernel), which does change some of the base apps. Since I don't normally play around with a regular Nexus One, it isn't clear which things have changed with Froyo and which apps have been updated by CM.

  • adbWireless 1.3 - Geeky tool to allow adb to connect to your mobile wirelessly. By geeks, for geeks, about geeky things.....
  • Adobe Reader - to read PDFs
  • Antennas -geeky tool to tell you where the cell phone towers are
  • Bubble - cute app to tell you when something is level....
  • Calling Card - allows you to call international numbers through a calling card without needing to dial a whole jumble of digits. Love this app!
  • International Dialer - I used to love Calling Card, but then the author decided to remove the free version from the market, so I wrote my own. Allows you to call international numbers through a calling card. Can also remember which card you used for which numbers... Download it from https://market.android.com/details?id=com.malpani.dialer&feature=search_result and let me know what you think.
  • Chrome to Phone - allows you to send links/numbers/maps from your browser to your mobile
  • ConnectBot - let's you log onto your own phone and treat it like a computer. Also let's you ssh onto other machines!
  • Contacts Clean-up - reformats all phone numbers to follow a single format. I like +1.800.555.1212
  • doubleTwist - to get your music onto your phone....
  • Facebook
  • Gesture Search - Allows you to search for people/apps by writing the name rather than invoking the keyboard. Seriously - once you try this, you will have a hard time getting to people any other way (maybe voice search)
  • Google Translate - Cool way to show how cool your phone is. You can speak a phrase in one language and have the phone spout it out in another! Helps if you have a good connection!
  • GPS Status - Geeky tool that tells me where various GPS satellites are, my position, velocity, height, etc.
  • handyCalc - A dream calculator - would have loved it when I was doing engineering. Can draw graphs, solve equations - what more could you ask for?
  • Linda File Manager - Easy way to looks at the files on disk
  • Listen - Allows me to do Radio on Demand. I can download programs I like and listen to them at any time I like - e.g. I keep up with Marketplace like that.
  • Logger - Geeky tool to look at program logs. Used it to recently figure out why my daughter's phone was blocking calls from my wife's phone....
  • Mileage - Helps me keep track of the mileage I am getting from my Prius
  • My Tracks - Allows me to keep track of my pace, distance, elevation gain etc. during a run
  • PhoneFlix - Enables me to manage my Netflix account on my mobile
  • Places - To figure out the closest restaurants, gas stations, etc nearby. Is from Google
  • RealCalc - A full fledged calculation (would have expected the built-in calculation to have a scientific mode, but it just doesn't)
  • ShootMe - Let's you take screen shots of your mobile
  • Shopper  - Nice interface for price comparisons
  • Timeriffic - Allows me set up time at which I want my phone to go quiet and when I want it to automatically turn back on. For example, I have set my mobile to neither ring for vibrate from 11pm-7am. Done. No more 3am calls from people who don't like to sleep!
There are a few games that I like to. I will just mention a small number - I am sure any dedicated reader will easily come up with a bigger and better list
  • Lights Out
  • Sudoku Free
  • Traffic Jam
  • Trap

Applications I used to like, but that aren't so important anymore

  • Advanced App Killer (not that important anymore, but I still like it)
  • Star Contact - Great way to find contacts on your mobile - I used it all the time till Gesture Search came around.
  • Toggle Settings (was great to change settings quickly, but with the Power Settings Widget, it isn't important anymore. Also, it appears like the free version isn't in the market anymore)
Update on 7/26/11 - Replaced Calling Card with International Dialer

Thursday, August 26, 2010

GMail with Voice - did we forget about Android?

Now that Google has added voice capabilities to GMail, how long before they add it to Android? I have been waiting for a very long time for high quality VOIP to come to mobiles - all my telco is really providing me with, is a data plan - everything else is just data flowing over that plan....

If Google did that, I might actually be willing to give out my Google Voice number as my phone number to everybody!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

iPhone vs Android - As a user

I have a few friends with iPhone think they have the best device made since the printing press. There has been at least one effort I know of, where Ed Clark picks the top iPhone apps and tells you how to do the same tasks in Android.

I decided that there were things I like doing on Android that I don't know how to do on iPhone - tasks that don't necessarily require me to jailbreak my phone/run CyanogenMod (although some do).

So, without further ado, here is my list. If some iPhone user actually knows how to do this on the iPhone, do let me know:

Set my phone to automatically dial a calling card number before actually calling an international number
    I call people in India quite often. Sometimes they are people I call quite infrequently. To make the calls more cheaply, I like to use RelianceGlobalCall, a service that lets me call all numbers in India at < 2 cents per minute. However, I don't want to copy the number I wish to call, dial RelianceGlobalCall and then punch in the Indian number. I want to choose the contact and let the phone do the grunt work of calling through the calling service....
This is exactly what CallingCard lets me do. There is also another app - PhoneCard Express, which has similar functionality.
A sister app is Contacts Clean-up, that allows me to clean up my contacts in my address book. It reformats all numbers, so that a number I enter as "408 555 1212" gets stored as "+1.408.555.1212". Now all my numbers have the + in front of them - makes it easier for Calling Card to do its job!

Easily Find Phone Numbers and Applications
Yes, Android has a similar way to find people as iPhone - you can swipe your way through a list. But I find that painfully slow - since I have a few hundred contacts on my phone. I used to use a program called StarContact, which allowed me to find people using a virtual numeric keypad and that was quite nice. However, once I found Gesture Search from Google, I stopped using such archaic ways of finding people. Now, I just trace out the name the first few letters of the persons first OR last name and find the person immediately! Because Gesture Search also indexes applications, I have stopped arranging too many apps on my home screen.

Free Navigation
I don't use Google Navigation as much as I normally would, since I have a nav system on my Prius, but it is useful when I am travelling.

Keeping Track of My Running Speed
While I hate running, it has been drummed into my head that I better do it for health reasons. Anyway, one app that I love to use while running is called My Tracks. Not only does it keep track of the total distance I have run, average speed, etc, it also tracks elevation. One very cool feature that got added recently is the ability to have it announce periodically (ever 5-10 mins) what your total distance covered was, average speed, etc. Future versions will be able to keep track of your heart rate as you run/exercise! It also lets me upload my tracks to Google, to save it for future use.

Making sure my phone doesn't ring in the middle of the night
I live in the US. My brother lives in India. For some complicated reason I can't quite understand, he never knows what the current time is in California. Anyway, he has called me a few times between 3-7 am, which really kills my sleep. So I was delighted to find this program - Timeriffic, which I have set up to automatically put my phone in silent mode between 11pm and 7am.

Save Costs While Roaming
I am currently in Bangalore, India. Have an Indian SIM card, which allows unlimited data as long as I am in Mumbai. Love the Google Power widget that let's me turn off automatic data syncing of my chatty applications to reduce my data usage while roaming. Still get Google Maps, mail when I want it, but don't automatically check for market updates etc. while roaming. The Power Management widget also lets me quickly turn on/off things like Bluetooth, WiFi, etc. If only I didn't have to unlock my phone to access it :-)

Gas Miser
Okay, I admit it. I am a gas miser and a Prius bigot! Love my Prius and want to track the mileage I am getting very precisely. This is where Mileage comes in. Allows me to enter the amount of gas I fill into my mobile. Then shows me nice charts about my average mileage, cost of gas, etc.

Geeky Delights
Some apps I love that I can't justify to non-Geeky folks, but that I didn't want to ignore are ConnectBot, GPS Status, WiFi Analyzer and Antennas. ConnectBot let's me get a terminal window either onto my mobile, or any remote machine I might be using (as long as it supports ssh/telnet). I can then enter command line commands to manage the remote machine, start stop services, etc. GPS Status tells me why I haven't got my position data on Google Maps and/or what my current GPS coordinates are, where the GPS satellites exactly are, etc. WiFi Analyzer let's me walk around the house and see how strong my WiFi router signal is in different rooms. Antennas tells me where my carriers antenna towers are - not that there is much I can do about their location, but curious minds want to know :-)

Ok. That is it for tasks I find I do quite often on my Android phone that I am not sure I can do on iPhone. I am not stating the obvious list like changing my SIM chip when travelling and not being locking into a particular carrier....

I promise to do another post soon about "Cools Apps that I don't really use, but are great to Wow a crowd". Just for my information (or, if you are impatient), the name of those apps are:
- Google Sky Map
- Bubble
- Chrome to Phone
- Talk to Me
- Talk to enter text


Friday, August 6, 2010

Uploading videos to Facebook on Android

Why can't I upload videos from my Nexus One to FB? I can upload them to YouTube, mail them, etc....

Even if I start in the FB app, it lets me upload photos, but not videos.

Come on FB - fix the problem.....

Friday, July 23, 2010

First Chrome Extension!

Ok. This isn't quite Android related, but didn't want to start a new blog just for this.....

I got sick and tired of the new Google News format with the useless 3rd column on the right that takes up a good chunk of my page.

Looks like Google isn't going back to its original format (I am not sure I understand why). Anyway, write a simple Chrome extension that kills the extra column. Hope to fix the extension to make it more flexible, but wanted to get this working now for people.....

You can get the extension here
Project sources here.

Please let me know if you like it!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Android and Trust

One legitimate concern that users/security folks have about Android is around the trustworthiness of applications in the Android Market.

Given that Google doesn't censor applications in the Market, how can a user be comfortable that an app she is downloading isn't malicious. Particularly given that the granularity of permissions still leaves something to be desired.

I wonder if it makes sense for Google to offer/contract out the job of testing 3rd party applications for security/privacy issues. Developers can pay for this testing. In return, they get a "seal of approval", which allows lay users to download and run them comfortably.

Anybody has opinions on this?

Monday, June 7, 2010


Just saw Steve Job's announcement at WWDC about iPhone4/iOS4.0

Nice display, but otherwise I wasn't very impressed. Would still prefer my Nexus one (ideally with a keyboard).

Any Android users disagree?

Any iPhone users drooling for free turn-by-turn navigation, SkyMap, Gesture Search, Voice input, Voice translation, Google Goggles, Calling Card app (to automatically dial an international number through a calling card service - eg. Reliance, AirTel)?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Will Chrome OS support apps?

One thing that turned me off Chrome OS, was Google's original statement that it won't support installed apps.

After Google's phenomenal presentation at Google I/O 2010, I am not so sure anymore. One thing that Vic talked about, was the ability to store your apps and related data on the web. So you can think of a machine with a set of local apps, as a cache of a specially configured web page (kind of like your My Yahoo page).

Allows you to have a Chrome OS with local apps, which are all technically, just a reflection of a machine that is on the web!

Of course, I still don't understand why I would call that OS Chrome OS and not Android.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why don't Nokia and Blackberry ride on Android?

I know this is a sacrilegious thought, but why don't Nokia and RIM (Blackberry) just port Android to their phones and be done with it? If there are custom features on their device they wish to highlight, they can modify the OS for particular devices/develop apps.

It is going to be very, very hard for Blackberry to attract as many developers to their platform as Android has - particularly given that they haven't done a great job providing good developer tools, maintaining backward compatibility, etc.

While Nokia might be able to attract developers, they will have their work cut out for them.

It also will simplify life for app developers - let OSes to port to.

Come on, Nokia, RIM - you can do it!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Google's app strategy on Android

For apps sold on the Android Market, Google gives the carrier 30% and the developer 70%.

Wonder why they didn't do a 80-10-10 divide - 80% to the developer, 10% to the carrier and 10% to GOOG. Would allow them to make money of the app, make it more attractive for both the developers and the carrier (relative to the iPhone).

Given the number of apps people tend to download on iPhone and Android, I think carriers would make more per phone than they do with feature phones.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What is the purpose of an iPad?

So. I got an iPad for work. Nice device. Still can't figure out why people would pay $500+ for it.

It is a nice video player - if you don't have access to your laptop/tv.
Cute book reader - book reading app is cool. However, my eyes get tired trying to read on this kind of a screen - and it is quite heavy to hold for long.

So - would you plunk $500 for an iPad? Have you already? Any smart uses for it that I haven't thought of?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Still miss my keyboard!

Have had my Nexus One for 2 months now. Still miss my keyboard. Think that makes it a much poorer substitute for a Blackberry than the G1.

Come on Google, your competition is not the iPhone, but a mobile that lets me do what I need to when I am not at my laptop.....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Android Security Problem?

Just noticed something - the oil on my fingers leaves marks on my Android screen.

Guess how I log into my Android phone - by drawing a pattern on the screen.

Want to know my login pattern? Just hold my screen up to the light appropriately and you will be able to figure it out.... :-(

Just how secure does Google think this pattern thing is?

Friday, January 29, 2010

First poor experience with T-mobile customer support

I have generally been very happy with T-mobile's support.

Just had the following experience when I was at the airport leaving the US:

I had got my T-mobile plan with my G1. When I was at a T-mobile hotspot, the network recognized that this was a T-mobile phone and allowed me to access the wifi network without asking me to login.

Bought an unlocked Nexus One, and put my sim chip in it. Now my Nexus One can see the T-mobile network, but it doesn't automatically get my wireless access. I get redirected to the T-mobile Hotspot home page and asked to log in.

Spent over 2 hours with the T-mobile support guys, but they couldn't help at all.

First time I have been disappointed with T-mobile's customer service. The supervisor didn't even agree to give me an account I could use before my plane left.....

Guess the good news is that it kept me busy for the 3 hours I was waiting at the airport..... :-)

AirCel GPRS in Mumbai

Just got an AirCel GPRS card from a dealer. Cost Rs. 14/- (~$0.33). Allows me unlimited data for 3 days!
Don't know how great the speed will be, but I like unlimited data.

Here are my settings (in case somebody needs them in the future:

APN: aircelgprs
Port: 8080


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Got a Nexus One!

Just got a new Nexus One (thanks, Radhika)

After playing with it for a day or so, rooted the device and got Cyanogen's updates.
Wanted to get tethering working, so I downloaded this app. However, I also needed to the XP drivers, which I got for here.

Now, I am happy :-)

PS. While looking up links for this post, I found that Cyanogen just released a full ROM. Now I need to go get that.... :-(

PPS. Looks like the spammers are working their magic on a lot of my Android queries - guess there is some kind of a ring that is getting random blog entries and then linking to each other.....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Universal Remote with Android Part II

Ok. Looks like somebody built a remote with the iPhone: http://theappleblog.com/2010/01/04/iphone-becomes-a-universal-remote-this-february/

Would love to see this with my G1.

Ideally, if I were the manufacturer, I would allow users to design their own buttons for a device and enter in the codes from their older remotes. Will help the maker update their devices supported very quickly....