Stewart Rogers - FAQ me!

May 11 2010

What are my favourite Android apps?

Since upgrading to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, I’ve been working out which Android apps can make a real difference to me on the road.

Here is my list of great Android apps, and the reason why I like them:

Lookout

Lookout is just fantastic. A combined virus checker, cloud backup and phone locator, Lookout is the only solution you need to install to provide security and peace of mind.

Lookout will check any installed applications to see if they harbour anything nasty, and test new installations on-the-fly after they’ve downloaded from the Marketplace. It also backs up your entire phone - contacts, pictures and even calls - so that if you replace it, you’re only a click away from a full restore.

The standout feature is the locator, which will not only find your phone (assuming it can get a GPS fix), but allows you to make the phone ‘scream’ very loudly to help you or others locate it.

Advanced Task Killer

Probably the first app many Android users install, this helps you to keep the apps that are running in the background to just those that are required, saving memory and extending battery life.

Bump

Just like the iDevice equivalent, Bump allows you to share your contact details, photos, phonebook entries and even apps by just bumping the phone with another Android user.

The Android version doesn’t have the features of the iDevice edition, such as the ‘compare contacts’ or Facebook Friend options, but it is still the easiest way to swap information.

Dropbox

Everyone knows I love Dropbox, and the Android mobile app has finally launched. Now I can enjoy my documents, videos, pictures and other Dropbox contents on the go. On the Android version, you can take a picture directly into a Dropbox folder where others - who you may have shared that folder with - can grab the contents instantly.

Google’s Goggles and Sky Map apps

Goggles is good fun - it allows you to take a picture of an object, such as a DVD, CD, book or film poster, and see instant Google search results. The results include comparison shopping details so you can buy the product at the best price. 

Sky Map helps me to satisfy my astronomy fix. Move the phone around, and it will show you what celestial objects you’re looking at in the sky. It isn’t an augmented reality app since the camera doesn’t show what you’re looking at, but it does do a good job of panning across the sky to show what is there.

Sweet Dreams

This app allows you to set a sleep time on your phone, and then decide what services should be switched off during that time. For example, you can have it automatically turn off your Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth between midnight and 6am.

Sweet Dreams can also ‘wake up’ your device and those services should you either move the phone, make a loud noise or even take it out of a predefined area.

Share QR

Finally, Share QR isn’t really an app. It installs a new option in the Share menu of your browser so that you can create an on-screen QR Code from any URL. This then means that anyone with a QR Code scanner, such as the Barcode Scanner app on Android or any of the various QR Code readers on Blackberry, iDevice or Java phones (like Beetag etc.) can read the code from your screen and immediately visit the same URL.

Great for sharing without having to get email addresses etc. when the person you want to share with is with you.

1 note

Mar 21 2010

What installed software do I use?

I have to get a lot of things done through my working day, so it is important to have a good selection of tools available to help me get things done.

Here’s my list of installed applications - i.e. those that sit on my hard drive:

Microsoft Windows 7

This is my operating system of choice on the laptop and I’m going to be installing it on the netbook too, given the glowing report it got from the readers of Lifehacker recently.

Microsoft Office 2007

Despite having used several application suites over the years, you just can’t get away from the fact that nobody quite does this as well as Microsoft, so Office 2007 is my suite of choice. I am shying away from PowerPoint for presentations though, and if you look at my list of ‘online applications’ you’ll see why.

However, I don’t use Microsoft OneNote - note-taking duties instead go to…

Evernote

Evernote is a fantastic note-taking and web-clipping application, and since your notes are synchronised with the iPod/iPhone version and a web portal automatically, you always have your latest notes with you at any time.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a real time saver. The installed application creates a Windows folder. Any time I put anything in the Dropbox, it is automatically synchronised with any of my other devices, whether they be the netbook or the iPod Touch. I can also share a folder in my Dropbox with other people so that they can easily share files with me.

Chrome and FireFox

I mainly use Chrome for browsing these days, as it is slicker and quicker than any of the other options available. Every now and then I need to use an alternative browser because of some minor compatibility issues that still remain, so FireFox gets the nod over IE, which I haven’t used in years thanks to terrible security issues and general sluggishness.

TweetDeck

To maintain my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn status updates, and keep a handle on what everyone else is saying, TweetDeck is my client of choice. Highly recommended, and because there is a corresponding iPod/iPhone app, I get a common interface whether I’m at my desk or not.

Skype

A complete life-saver, Skype allows me to communicate with everyone easily, effectively and securely. SkypeIn numbers and SkypeOut subscriptions offer me cheap incoming and outgoing calls worldwide.

iTunes

I have an iPod Touch, so it is the best way to maintain, backup and manage the device.

TuneUp Utilities

Keeps my PC in tip-top condition automatically, optimising everything when the PC is idle.

Xobni

One of two Outlook plugins that I use, Xobni helps me stay on top of my inbox and provides me with invaluable information on every person I am in contact with. If you’re connected with me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, this is most likely how I found your feed.

LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar

A ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for Outlook, it not only builds my list of contacts for me, but also tells me when people haven’t replied to my emails, helping me to follow up in a timely manner.

There are several other great applications installed on my system such as Spotify, inSSIDer, f.lux and Picasa, but those listed above are the main applications that make a difference to me.

1 note

Mar 09 2010

What kit do you use ‘on the road’ and why?

Most of my friends know me as ‘Inspector Gadget’, ‘Mr. Gadget’, ‘Go Go Gadget’ or some other ‘honestly, it is witty, I’ve never heard it before’ reference to gadgets.

But the truth is that whilst I do tend to get my gadgets quite early (I’m definitely ‘leading edge’, if not ‘bleeding edge’), each one is a considered purchase. I don’t buy them unless they are going to save me time and/or money.

Here’s my list of essential kit for when I’m travelling around - the stuff I carry with me pretty much everywhere:

Apple iPod Touch

Let’s face it. The iPhone is probably the worst actual mobile phone in the world right now. With a horrible camera, no expandable memory and a serious issue with keeping a strong signal, the only redeeming feature is the interface and all those lovely Apps.

So I choose to take advantage of the wonderful Apps and the great interface without the messy ‘phone part’ by using an iPod Touch. I have a 2nd Gen unit which does everything I need when connected to a WiFi hotspot (see below).

In addition, I own a Belkin adaptor that gives me a microphone with a standard jack socket so I can plug in my awesome headphones. This allows me to record voice memos and use Skype on the go.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

A proper phone with an incredible 8.1mp camera, 3G connectivity, expandable memory and great reliability. It currently runs Android 1.6 and will get an upgrade to 2.1 soon courtesy of Sony Ericsson.

Having an Android phone and an iPod Touch means I get the best of both worlds. The fact is, most of the ‘top apps’ are available in both flavours, so I favour the Android version due to the camera and 3G connectivity. Augmented Reality apps like Layar are great on the X10.

Sony Ericsson MBW-150 Watch

This Bluetooth watch alerts me when I have an incoming message or phone call by vibrating on my wrist and showing me the details of the communication on a small LED screen. If someone is calling, I can see who it is and have the option of rejecting the call to voicemail by pressing a button on the watch.

My phone stays on silent permanently and the watch tells me if someone is getting in touch, which eliminates awkward moments in meetings, networking sessions or even at home when we’re all deeply involved in a great movie.

Currently, the watch is now just a watch until the X10 gets an Android 2.1 upgrade. Once it does, OpenWatch will not only provide all the features I enjoyed when my phone was an SE C905, but will also provide me with extended capabilities.

3 MiFi

The 3 MiFi is an incredible thing. It is a small device that, when switched on, converts the ever-present 3G mobile phone Internet connection into a personal WiFi hotspot. When I’m not using my Starbucks card to give me two hours of free WiFi every day, or when I can’t find another free hotspot, I just create my own by switching it on.

The MiFi unit works with location-based services, so Foursquare and other location-aware apps still know where I am when I’m using it.

TomTom 940 LIVE

The TomTom is always plugged in when I’m driving, even if I’m only going to a local destination. As well as providing live traffic updates, Google destination searches and the best directions I’ve ever seen in a GPS, it is also my hands-free unit for the X10 so that I can make and answer calls without taking my eyes off the road or falling fowl of local laws.

In addition, I store audiobooks on the TomTom from my Audible account and listen to them when I’m on a long journey. It is a great way to catch up on the latest business book or the best comedy shows.

Trust me - if you want to eradicate road rage from your life and make every journey go faster, just listen to someone like Dara O’Brien along the way and everything will be right in the world.

Optional Gadgets

Sony PSP

When I’m flying anywhere or going away for a few days, I always take my trusty PSP for games and movies.

I won’t buy the PSPGo because I think it is a waste of time, so if the PSP decides to die on me I’ll be replacing it with the latest full model. The 3 MiFi gives me access to multi-player gaming or Remote Play to my PS3, so I don’t need the only benefit offered by the PSPGo; the Bluetooth mobile phone tethering.

The PSP is great for long flights, since I can watch my own movies from the UMD discs or memory stick and/or play my favourite games, rather than get stuck with the usual rubbish everyone else is watching!

Samsung NC10

My ‘desktop-replacement’ laptop back at the office is a Samsung R522 but I also have a netbook for those times when I can’t just work from the iPod. My netbook of choice is the Samsung NC10.

I have a netbook because I got sick and tired of lugging a great big PC around when I’m travelling. Since I travel a lot, it really makes a big difference to me.

I use the incredible Dropbox application to keep files in sync between the laptop, the netbook and the iPod Touch. I can also share a folder with someone so they can drop files into my Dropbox for me, which gives me access to everything I need regardless of where I am.

Mar 08 2010

What is this for?

Welcome to my Personal FAQ.

People who are getting to know me ask me all sorts of similar questions, especially once they find out I might have a talent in a certain area.

Whether it be related to my day job, my insane interest in social networking and Web 2.0 solutions, my fund raising, my love of soccer/ice hockey/Formula 1 or just my razor wit, I get asked all the same questions all the time. Well, except for anything to do with my razor wit.

In an effort to talk about much more interesting things with you in person, and to save us both some time, this is my personal Frequently Asked Questions page - or FAQ for short.

Skim through this or use the search facility, and you’ll find I’ve probably answered all the questions you immediately wanted to ask me already. That means we can move on to the more interesting stuff, right?

Go on, FAQ me!

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