More and more, a smartphone is becoming an important part of life. They've made the jump from geek toy to providing essential functions for "normal" people.
The proliferation of apps, which is short for application programs, which is geek-speak for programs that actually do something for you, has so increased the number of potential uses for a smartphone that almost anyone should be able to find their phone a helpful accessory.
So, along with the standard out-of-the-box functions _ telephone, text messaging, email, music player, still camera and video _ you have a myriad of other things you can use your phone for by adding an app.
Now, there are literally tens of thousands of apps out there for smartphones. I mean it, if you want to peruse the whole Android (my flavor of smartphone) app market, you might want to take a couple of days off from work to do it.
So I thought I might save some of you a little time and mention a few of my favorite apps.
Before that though, I need to mention that you should keep in mind that most apps make use of the Internet, and using data over the Internet can be an issue. Cell companies charge for using data, and the cellphone data situation is changing.
I would say that the days of unlimited data plans are numbered. Cell companies are starting to tighten up the rules on data. If you use a lot of data you are going to pay more. If you don't already, you will at some point have a limit on the amount of data you can use each month. If you go over the limit, your wallet will feel it.
But there is a way to help with the data issue, at least in some circumstances. Almost all smartphones can access data in two ways. First, of course, is by cell signal. The second is by using WiFi, which is the wireless technology that most people have in their homes and offices. You know, the wireless you use with your laptop computer.
So, to limit the use of data over the cell network, you can have your phone connect over a WiFi connection, if it's available.
This can be important to cheapskates like me who have small data plans. For instance, my plan allows me 150 megabytes a month. But with judicious use of WiFi, I have never gone over my limit, so far.
Mind you, I don't use my phone to watch movies, or stream radio all day long. But I do use it for email and several other Internet related things.
So, the first app I am going to mention is called NetCounter.
It's free. Here's what it does.
It runs in the background and keeps a running count of the amount of data that I use on my phone, and it counts the data from the cell network and WiFi separately. So I can open the program and see how much data I've used on the cell network and how much on WiFi.
I figure that I can average 5 megs of data a day and keep under my data limit. NetCounter also keeps a running total per day, week and month, so you can set the date of the month it recycles its count to be the same as the day of the month your cell bill is billed out on, and have a pretty good idea of how you're doing. A great little app.
The next one I recommend is called WiFi Analyzer, also free. You start the program, and it scans for WiFi access points in the immediate area. It shows you the name and strength of the signal. This can be helpful if, like me, you try to connect to WiFi when possible.
You'll find WiFi that you can use in many places, such as friends' and relatives' homes, offices where you go frequently, and some public places. You may have to get an encryption key from whoever is in charge of the access point, but heck, it doesn't hurt to ask, and it might save you some money.
Now for the first app that really does something for you. It's called Radar Now. Yet another free one.
It's probably the app I use most, after email. It simply shows you the weather radar map for wherever you happen to be. Want to know if it's going to rain? Don't need a TV or radio, just open up the app and see the animated map. I see it being a favorite of anyone who works or plays outside.
Related, but kind of complementary, is The Weather Channel app. Yep, it's free, too.
When you first run it, you put in the location, or locations, you're interested in. You can keep track of several different places.
When you start it, it shows you the conditions for the location. Press a different icon and it will give you the hourly forecast for the next several hours, another icon and you get the "today-tonight-tomorrow" forecast, and yet another one will bring up the 10-day forecast.
It will also give you severe weather alerts and has other functions, too.
Once you get used to this app, you're hooked on it.
I have two other apps that I use a lot, and they're both book readers. You'd be surprised at how often you find yourself with a couple minutes to kill. When I do, I whip out my phone and read a few pages.
One is the Kindle app, which does just what you think it would: read books you have on a Kindle account. You might not realize it, but you don't need to actually buy a Kindle to read Kindle books. Actually, there is also a Kindle program for computers, too.
Keeping with my "cheapskate" reputation, you should know that there are a lot of Kindle books that are available for free, and a lot more that are about a buck.
I have another book reader, called Aldiko, which I really like. In this one I read mostly old, out-of-copyright books that are available free on the Internet. Some you can download directly within the program, and some I download separately and transfer into the program.
Both the reader programs are, of course, free.
The last app I am going to mention, as I'm running out of space here, is one that will be of interest mainly to people who use corporate email, and have a company Exchange server. The app is called Touchdown.
An Exchange server is Microsoft's fancy do-it-all program that includes email, contacts, calendar and so forth. It's pretty popular with businesses.
It is really handy to have your phone correctly synchronize all that stuff with your server.
Now, I should mention that Android phones will sync with Exchange natively, and you don't really need a special program to do it.
However, I've found that Android phones are not all created equal in this regard. Some have better interfaces with Exchange than others do. Touchdown is the "great equalizer." It works very well, and does all the Exchange stuff correctly.
So, no matter which version of Android phone you have, if you use Touchdown, things work like they should.
Touchdown is free to try out. It costs $20 to buy and use for ever and ever. But if you use your phone for business, that's a pretty good price for what it does.
That's all for this time. Maybe I'll do some more apps sometime down the road. 'Til next time, be 'appy.
Bruce Endries is former systems manager at The Daily Star. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/techgp.
More and more, a smartphone is becoming an important part of life. They've made the jump from geek toy to providing essential functions for "normal" people.
Keep pets safe in cold, snowy season
Keeping your pets warm and safe is an important part of your winter weather routine. Take a look at these 10 points to help make your pets' snowy season happy and healthy.Continued ...
Carving a new Thankgiving tradition: Readers share holiday recipes
The menu of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 is much different than that of the traditional meal today.Continued ...
It takes a village
Amid the rural setting snuggled in scenic beauty bustles the Hobart Book Village.Continued ...
Stories to be told: Experts offer tips to capture veterans' tales
Veterans Day is a time to honor all those who have served our nation. Take time on Monday to honor them by learning from their experiences.Continued ...
Get creative with costumes
Halloween is right around the corner. As the leaves dry to a crunch and spooky decorations spring up around the neighborhoods, many people begin to imagine what they can become for that one night.Continued ...
- Keep pets safe in cold, snowy season
- Around The Arts
Opportunities abound for career in the arts
I was recently asked to speak at a local high school about my career path and how I came to work in the arts. It was interesting speaking with these seniors, and discussing their hopes for life after high school.Continued ...
The art of the appraisal explained by one who knows
So often in this column my co-writer, Brittany, and I talk about how art is everywhere and can be appreciated by all. Perhaps because of my passion for everyday art, there is one part of the art world I just cannot grasp -- art appraisal. How can you put a value on something so seemingly subjective? So, I set out to learn more about this industry.Continued ...
Flash mobs more theatrical production than dance
Most people are familiar with the term "flash mob." It's associated with groups of people congregating briefly to the surprise of the surrounding public, and often incorporates a choreographed dance. You've probably been witness to one, or you've probably seen one online, as they are extensively documented -- there are more than 10,000 results on YouTube if you search for flash mobs.Continued ...
Art found in the foods at local road stands, markets
Artisanal foods have become quite popular in recent years, with some abuse of the term by mass-retailers and fast food restaurants.Continued ...
'Record Breaker' exhibit to be at Orphic Gallery
"Record Breaker," featuring the work of Greg Frederick, will open Saturday at the Orphic Gallery in Roxubry.Continued ...
- Opportunities abound for career in the arts
- Music Beat
Hairstylist finds balance through playing cello
Catch 22 is a successful American ska/punk band that has released several albums and has a record deal with the Chicago-based label, Victory Records. Although the band has its roots in New Jersey, founding member Ryan Eldred has friends with whom he produces recordings in Walton During one of Eldred's visits to Walton, he met Ann Jones, a home-schooled native of Walton, an enthusiastic cellist and successful professional hairstylist.Continued ...
Music Industry Tips
Here are some of Ann Jones' guiding principles:Continued ...
Do everything you can to show your support of all arts
Last week, a small woman of modest demeanor and appearance walked quietly on stage at the Glimmerglass Festival Theatre and seemed pleased but genuinely surprised when the standing room only audience rose spontaneously to its feet, expressing their respect with thunderous applause.Continued ...
Many things go into choosing, protecting a band's name
Musicians who are trying to build the popularity of their band have an almost unending list of responsibilities. They need to keep their musical skills strong, take care of musical equipment, and if they are really thinking about a future career, they should also write their own music.Continued ...
Music Industry Tips About Professional Musicians
Musicians know that every performance they play is an audition for their next engagement.Continued ...
- Hairstylist finds balance through playing cello
- Parenting Imperfect
Of kids, phone calls and toilet paper
We have reached that golden age when both kids are responsible enough to be trusted alone for short periods of time.Continued ...
A Halloween message to my future self
I'm writing this column a few days before Halloween. And I'm writing this mostly for my future self, as a reminder of the lessons learned this particular last week in October.Continued ...
My brain is losing its connection to eyes, teeth
I'm beginning to have grave doubts about my brain's ability to remember things.Continued ...
Celebrate small accomplishments of best laid plans
My summer plans always seem so reasonable when I make them in May. Come late-August, I wonder what the heck past-me was thinking.Continued ...
Vacation was great ... until today
Up until today, our family vacation has gone much better than expected. Today, however, was a high entropy day.Continued ...
- Of kids, phone calls and toilet paper
- Senior scene
From the Office: Guardianship can be a complicated legal issue
Sometimes individuals cannot care for themselves. In New York, guardianship laws exist to empower others to take care of children and adults who need help to care for their persons and/or their property. This is the first of a two-part column that explores the issues and the law of guardianship in New York state.Continued ...
Looking Back: Pinch your pennies, especially by reading the fine print
Penny pinching is just that -- pinching pennies. The worsening economy is something that is reflected on so many, many faces: Unhappiness, irritability and just plain "I don't know what to do … what's next? All is so unbelievable!!Continued ...
Social Security: Start an online holiday tradition at www.socialsecurity.gov
As we approach this holiday season, I want to share an informative article written by a fellow Social Security employee. I hope you enjoy it.Continued ...
As Time Goes By: Fuggedabout 'tempus fugit' in not-so-fun times
Someone recently asked me if I had one wish, what it would be?Continued ...
From the Office: Don't put off getting ready for winter any longer
We've had a beautiful fall and I, for one, have been tempted to put off thinking about winter.Continued ...
- From the Office: Guardianship can be a complicated legal issue
- Tech, GP
Thankful hard-disk shortage is about over, and counting my blessings
Well, I'm almost ready to let out a cheer.Continued ...
Businesses need backups for their computer people, systems
In the interest of full disclosure, I want to let you know that I have taken a new position, professionally. I recently joined Eastman Associates, a local general contractor, to do its IT work, as well as taking care of some other functions of the business.Continued ...
Windows 8 seems to be made for the good of Microsoft, not the user
By Bruce Endries The software company everybody loves to hate, Microsoft, recently released what it calls a "consumer preview" of their next operating system, Windows 8.Continued ...
The Granite State got it right on software purchases
Believe it or not, I have found a bright spot in the political landscape, amid all the vitriolic partisan fighting.Continued ...
Visit a construction site and you'll probably find an iPad
It was just about two years ago now, that the iPad came out, and I wrote a column about it. At that time, I went out on a limb and said that thought it was a product which would fill certain niches very well, but that it wasn't very likely to fill in for what is normally considered a computer.Continued ...
- Thankful hard-disk shortage is about over, and counting my blessings
- Teen Talk
A Word of Advice: Digital speak doesn't translate
In an earlier article, I wrote about the importance of conversation as a lost art, however, after holding a few conversations with some fellow youths, I felt older than I should have.Continued ...
On the Go: We need to rethink holidays' meaning
The end of November smells like comfort. Our bellies are full and our wallets are empty.Continued ...
Weekend Reviews: 'My So-Called Life' mirrors real teen life
I think that everybody has that one thing, whether itâ€™s a book or a movie or a band or anything else, that they are so deeply infatuated with they simply canâ€™t contain themselves.Continued ...
Teenhood Today: We can take message of 'The Wizard of Oz' to heart
As I'm writing this, I'm about to get ready for opening night of our school's production of "The Wizard of Oz." By the time you read this, the play will have been over for about two weeks. So it will be ancient history. But for the time being, it's a pretty big part of my life. I am, or was, Dorothy.Continued ...
A Word of Advice: Used properly, the power of persuasion is strong
Persuasion is often viewed as a dirty thing in our modern-day society, like you’re being unhonorably sly by trying to get someone to do something or think a certain way. However, in the modern, world it’s typically the best and most efficient way of getting what you want. There are do’s and don’ts to persuasion and coercion just like anything; lines you can’t cross and whatnot.Continued ...
- A Word of Advice: Digital speak doesn't translate