My essential Android apps or everyone loves a list

Slightly obsessive compulsive but this is a list of my essential Android apps on my HTC desire. If you think I’ve missed one then let me know. Comment or tweet me at @technomob.

BBC iPlayer:nuff said.

Chess.com:essential now I’m through to the second round of the tournament. Excellent for correspondence style games. Come on then if you think you’re hard enough. Kiss me pawns, kiss me pawns.

Docs: classic from Google. Cloud docs with OCR facility for photographs of text.

Dropbox: cloud sharing multiple format files with seamless synching over different devices. Facility to share folders with colleagues and friends.

Evernote: cloud sharing app for notes, photos, and PDF. All searchable. Give your brain a rest and save everything into this repository.

Facebook: does what it says.

File manager: view all files and folders on your phone and SD card. Send, copy, delete, move, Bluetooth and rename.

Flex t9: very flexible input app. Voice recognition and an excellent keyboard which allows you to slide your finger over the keyboard to write. Takes some getting used to but spookily accurate.

Flickr free: Flickr pic uploaded.

Gmail: Google mail!

Goggles: search by taking and submitting a pic. Uncanny.

Got to do: ok to do app that syncs with Toodledo.

Latitude: your very own personal stalker. Hasn’t really caught on yet but this forever running in the background app logs the distance you travel and other geek stats when you log in to the PC version.

LiveJournal: simple but rather limited blog client for LiveJournal.

LjBeetle: slightly more sophisticated version of the above.

Mashable: tech news feeder.

Melon: curiously named note app.

My Tracks: superb tracking app for all your geeky stats of walking the dog or going for a jog. Distance, speed etc.

Posterous: blog, share and post to closed groups or the world.

Pulse: news item rss feeder grabber thing.

ROM manager: what every good rooted phone needs to keep up to date with ROMs to flash and other hardcore phone cracking functions like partitioning your SD card. READ UP BEFORE YOU DO ANY OF THIS!

Root Explorer: explore all your files, change permissions and move stuff around.

S2E: free up space by moving apps, data and cache to your SD card partition. I had a problem downloading a Google map update and turning on the download cache fixed this.

Skype: good Skype app for Android.

SoundCloud: cloud based file sharer for music lovers and creators round the world.

Spare Parts: Battery info and hacks to change animation speed for example.

Superuser: Give apps root access. If you don’t know what this means you aint no superuser!

Terminal Emulator: Hell even I don’t know what this does. Pretend your phone is a command prompt and speak to it in a weird way.

Text to Speech (wireshock developers) and Text to Speech (doesn’t even have an about button!): Gives you text to speech. That doesn’t mean voice recognition ok?! Your phone reads text back to you. Limited but functional programs. Text to speech and NOTHING else.

Thinking Space: Mind mapper that syncs nicely to MindMeister.

Titanium Backup: One of the best backup apps that allows you to save your apps and their data so you can flash that new ROM update and return to your previous state without too much disconnection or change anxiety.

TouchDown: email, tasks, calendar app. Syncs with exchange. Has some nice widgets. Allows you to actually move emails to folders. Is it a dirty secret that I want to do that? It’s also £12. Has an excellent demo version that lets you try for 30 days.

Tune Wiki: sing along to your songs as the lyrics come up with this music app.

TweetCaster: nice twitter app for Android.

WordPress: pretty nice WordPress blog app.
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ZoomReader iPhone App

ZoomReader

Yellow text on a black background like a CCTV reader

ZoomReader CCTV style text

Ai Squared have just released an iPhone app called ZoomReader into the Apple store priced at £11.99. It’s a camera app that OCRs an image into text and then reads it back. There are, of course, other apps that can do this already, Prizmo (£5.99) being a good one but it does have a really nice feature where you can make the phone act like a CCTV and display text using a choice of high contrast colours. You can also use your voice to “Zoom in”, “Zoom out” and “Take picture”. The OCR seems fairly accurate but like Prizmo you can’t select where you can start the reading from. You need to start from the beginning. At least with Prizmo you can fast forward through sections although if it’s a long document this can get a bit tedious. With ZoomReader though you get highlighting of the text as it’s read. Just sentance by sentance unfortunately but hopefully they’ll add some options so that you can have each word highlighted like TextHelp Read and Write on the PC.

It will be interesting to see how ZoomReader develops over the coming months. There are a few problems and it is a little buggy. There are a few limitations like you can’t rotate or crop the image in any way and you have to always start the read back from the beginning and can’t jump straight into the middle of a file but it’s a good app and has a lot of potential.

………………………….

original text saying 09-10 Support Assistant Rates

Image of text

Black text on a white background in ZoomReader iPhone app.

ZoomReader converted text

 

Other Text to Speech and OCR apps

Speak it! (£1.19) for the iPhone has no camera OCR, you need to copy and paste text in, but then you can have this text read to you. You can also save this as an audio file. If only Apple wasn’t such a control freak as this would open up your phone to custom and comedy spoken ring tones. I guess if you’re jail broken you can do this? You can select a word or phrase, or move the cursor and move from that location. It doesn’t do word highlighting as such but if you highlight the first word as if you were going to copy it, it does then move this copy highlight along as each word is read out. 

Read2Me (£2.99) has had a few problems crashing but after deleting it and reinstalling it everything now seems to work fine and I’m really glad I gave it another go. You can now import documents from Google Docs which is a really nice feature. You can double-click a word and then read from that location but it’s a bit hit and miss to whether this works or not.

converted text from image

Prizmo converted text from image

Prizmo is a great app that can OCR an image and read this back to you. It saves the image and text within the app which is a nice feature as you don’t have to OCR the image when you want to read something again. It also has a business card scanner that will fill in the contacts form automatically so you can add people to your contacts without typing anything in.

Perfect OCR (£2.39) is good for converting images to text but has no read back facility.

Posted in iPhone, text to speech | 2 Comments

You’ve got to call him ‘Bruce’

Free Scottish Voice

The Scottish computer voice, Heather, is free to all schools and colleges. On the 7th March The Scottish Voice announced that they had secured funding from the Scottish Government to develop a brother for Heather. This funding also covers a licence for “school-age pupils, further and higher education students, workers in the public sector, and NHS patients.”. This really is fantastic news.

You’ve got to call him ‘Bruce’

To feed my ego and bring me fame at last I’m starting a campaign to have this new voice called Bruce. What better name could there be? You can suggest a name by emailing the CALL centre. Don’t worry though he wont sound like me. They are getting a Scottish actor to play the part of the brother of Heather.

Please visit the Scottish Voice website to read the whole story and the site is well worth an explore as well. You can download the free Heather voice if you are eligible or buy it for £25.

Scottish Voice

Download the free Heather voice

Buy the Heather voice

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Rooting aboot

Rooted my HTC desire the other day. Why? I guess to join the geek club but I am glad I did it now. It’s probably the first time I’ve actually read up quite a bit around the subject before diving in and that helped quite a bit. Before I go on the usual disclaimer – rooting your phone voids your warranty. It can also leave you with a phone that doesn’t work. Brick is the expression they all love to use. Didn’t brick my phone but I was bricking it a few times. Scary stuff. What it does do though is allow you full control over your phone. You can do much more complex backups. And you can install new operating systems, try things out and then return the phone to some point in the past if you preferred that.

The two main things I used was the Unrevoked root and reflash download from http://unrevoked.com/. They promised a painless experience and on the whole it was. The other great resource is the Cyanogenmod wiki at http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/index.php?title=HTC_Desire_%28GSM%29:_Full_Update_Guide as that was the new version of the operating system that I was going to install on my phone. Open source and free and well worth a look. You can donate to the Cyanogenmod team.

So this is the order I did everything:

1. Installed the HBOOT Windows drivers on my 64bit Windows 7 Dell laptop.
2. Downloaded and tried to run unrevoked3.
3. Unrevoked 3 couldn’t find my phone  but remembered reading about HTC sync. I knew that you shouldn’t run unrevoked3 with HTC sync installed on the PC but the installation can help sort out all the correct drivers so I installed it and then uninstalled it.
4. Ran revoked again but this time it said the firmware on the phone was too new.
5. Read somewhere that a factory reset can fix this.
6. Unrevoked again.
7. Root!

So now for the new operating system. Did a complete backup using the Nandroid back up which allows you to take a snapshot of the phone so you can restore to this at any point.

8. Downloaded Cyanogen for Desire.
9. Downloaded Google apps for Desire.
10. Copied them to the SD card.
11. Booted into recovery on the phone using the ClockworkMod recovery. Followed the instructions on the wiki.
12. Installed.

Differences: no fancy animation showing windscreen wipers when it’s raining. Rom manager now installed automatically. Phone sometimes can’t wake up when it goes to sleep and you have to do a soft reset. But we are all a bit like that sometimes aren’t we? New animation on the home screen showing moving lights. TalkBack accessibility function has stopped working. Titanium back up now has root access and can do complex backups of your phones data to help restore things when you’ve fiddled too much.

So what’s next. This weekend I shall get Rom Manager working properly and then going to install another operating system or flash a ROM as I like to say. If anyone has any suggestions about which ROM to flash please let me know by comments or follow me on http://twitter.com/technomob

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Phones, phones everywhere. Nor any time to think.

Too complicated

Martin Cooper, the inventor of the mobile phone, has said that mobile phones have become too complicated. Now I can see why an 80 year old might not want a spreadsheet facility or a time tracking app but surely everyone needs a bit of Angry Birds?

News sources:
Engadget
The Telegraph

New phone

I’ve just bought an Android phone. To go with my iPhone. Is this too much? Do I need two phones, can I justify two phones? Probably not but then I do need to know what’s going on and one operating system is really only half the story. (Plus I’m jealous of Andy and Murray cos they both got two phones!)

Alone Together. Sob!

I actually believe that doing some things on a mobile phone is better than on a computer. Reading email is one of them, although not necessarily replying. Planning is good too. And because of the fact that you are not continuously tap tap tapping on your keyboard it actually gives you a bit of time to think. Also it blocks out the great unwashed on public transport and I’m sorry if Facebook and Twitter are making us more isolated but I don’t want to, and have never wanted to, talk to complete strangers on the bus at 7:42 on a Monday morning. Sorry but that’s just the way it is. I’ll be ‘Alone Together‘ if I wanna be.

I went for the HTC desire in the end if anyone is interested. Good choice do you think?

The boot is on both feet

Apparently you can now dual-boot Windows Phone 7 and Android operating systems on an HTC Desire HD. Sounds a bit complicated but I’d of been doing that if I’d got the HD. The alternative is 3 phones and only Stephen Fry has got more than 3 phones.

News source:
Engadget

Flattery get’s you everywhere

If anyone wants to Flattr me for this blog just slip me a tenner or buy me a Windows 7 phone. I don’t want no micropayment. I want something BIG.

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Eyes squeezed tightly shut

I shuffle out into the darkness taking tentative baby steps listening to the hog snoring in some dank and dusty corner. My ears straining to hear a little tinkling chime. I’m trying to avoid standing on a squeaky finger bone. If I do that the hog’s going to get me.

What am I doing?

Why playing Papa Sangre on my iPhone of course.

Papa Sangre is an audio only game that’s just hit the app store at http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/papa-sangre/id407536885?mt=8
It’s £3.99 and definitely worth checking out.


The game has been tested by the RNIB and is certainly a massive leap into unchartered new waters. It says it’s fully accessible which isn’t quite true as deaf people won’t be able to play it but that makes me feel like Scrooge and I almost feel like I shouldn’t say it. It is of course fantastic that a game even mentions the RNIB and the words ‘accessible’ so I think we can overlook the slight exaggeration.

Especially as it can’t of been easy to create this as this quote from their website (http://www.papasangre.com/) points out. “Papa Sangre is a video game with no video. It’s a first-person thriller, done entirely in audio by an award-winning team of game designers, musicians, sound designers and developers. We’ve created an entire world using the first ever real-time 3D audio engine implemented on a handheld device. Which was BLOODY HARD.”

You walk through the levels using your thumbs to touch each side if the screen and swipe the top to move left or right and then that’s you shuffling off towards the sound.


I’ve only done the first couple of levels so very interested to see where this one is headed.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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What’s the Trunk?

If you’ve not checked out Evernote yet here’s a few more reasons to add it to your PC, Mac, phone, netbook…

The Trunk is Evernotes way of spreading the word about 3rd party services that integrate with Evernote in a useful or interesting way. For example Livescribe pens can now share notes straight into your Evernote account. The latest update of the Livescribe software now has this facility built right in.

There is also Voice2Note by Dial2Do which can covert your Evernote voice memos to nice searchable taggable text so you can find your reminders to feed the cat or order your kippers from Craster.

There is also the My Modern Metropolis shared notebook. If you add this to your account you can find out about the One Dead Tree project where an artist has taken pictures of the same tree for over 5 years. If you like your art or photography this ones for you.

And don’t forget AudioMark. It’s an iPhone/iPad app that allows you to make notes or mark important points whilst listening to a recording of a lecture. Saves it straight into your Evernote account with all the track information and the time in the track that you made the note.

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