January 2010

Marketing and Politics15 Jan 2010 at 14:22 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Nothing new, but as Paul Currion remarks, the Haïti post-earthquake crisis shows once again that media and governments alike are still operating under the rule of sensationalism :

“Nobody can deny that Haiti needs assistance right now to save lives, but it also needed assistance yesterday when the infant mortality rate was the 37th lowest in the world. When it comes to natural disasters, we – our governments, our media, ourselves – are victims of the same biases that cause impulse buying at the supermarket. Thousands of people dying from buildings falling on them instantly mobilises a huge amount of resources, but thousands of children dying from easily preventable diseases is just background noise. This is the uncomfortable reality of the aid world, but it’s not one that our media or governments really wants to hear”.

But is it possible, in a noisy media environment, to find success in promoting the long view of human capability instead of a short term view of human suffering ? Some examples do exist, but forming, out of the background noise, a coherent signal that has political impact remains a rarely solved problem.

Mobile computing12 Jan 2010 at 14:43 by Jean-Marc Liotier

After days of being pestered by Corseman, here is the list of the Android applications I use after a few months of optimizing my selection. All of them are free, but many are free as in “free beer” rather than free as in “freedom”.

Communications :

  • K-9 – Excellent IMAP client. A huge improvement over the barely usable stock Android IMAP client. It makes mobile mail a very tolerable experience. With such a name suggesting Mutt legacy, it could only be a good piece of software !
  • May 2011 update… Xabber is the only XMPP Jabber client worth using.
  • DaraIRC – a decent IRC client, except that I can’t get it to remain connected reliably while in the background.
  • PingDroid – Quick and simple client for posting to the Ping.fm multiple posting application which I have now ceased to use in favor of Pixelpipe.
  • Pixelpipe – Like Ping.fm, but better.
  • Sipdroid – SIP client. For now I only use it for testing, but it seems to be the only serious game in town.
  • ConnectBot – a very good SSH client that even does tunneling.
  • AziLink – an application that allows USB tethering for Android-based phones, without requiring root access. Here is a nice Azilink Android tethering Debian/Ubuntu startup script – don’t forget to circumvent lame HTTP user agent blocks.

Utilities :

  • Linda file manager – does the job of shuffling files around. The Android’s user-facing design is far from being file-centric, but having file management capability comes handy sometimes. You may also like Astro instead.
  • Phonalyzr – analyzes the call log and SMS log to display graphs and usage summaries that provide useful insight into your consumption. I like it a lot.
  • Barcode Scanner – In 1D or 2D, it does the job. Works for reading QR coded business cards too.
  • Taskiller – Kill those rogue background tasks that make the whole system sluggish. Why doesn’t the Android base system feature a task manager is beyond me. Having an ad-supported and unfree program for such a basic utility irks me.
  • StopWatch – Very usable chronometer and countdown.

Geography :

  • Maverick – GPS off-road navigation for Android devices. Uses OpenStreetMap, shows heading and provides offline map tiles storage.
  • Places Directory – Finds nearby point of interests from an offline database. Useful when in unknown neighborhoods. The database could be better, but it does the job for finding the nearest ATM or a fuel station.
  • Google Sky Map – Romantically show the stars to your girlfriend while discreetly checking this awesome augmented reality planetarium to compensate for your utter lack of astronomical knowledge.
  • MapDroyd – On top of displaying the sometimes excellent OpenStreetMap data, this application does it offline – which Google Maps will never do. My choice for travel where the Internet does not yet reach.
  • Vespucci OSM EditorOpenStreetMap editor capable of download and upload. But on such a cramped device, I wouldn’t use it for anything but the simplest edits.
  • Here I am – Simple application that sends SMS or mail with your coordinates and a link to Google Map.
  • Velibike – Paris Velib automated bike rental stations on Google Maps, with bikes and slots availability.

Writing :

After experimenting with loads of notepad applications, I gave up and went with GDocs which synchronizes with Google Docs. Writing on Android is a pain

I love writing and the clumsiness of working with text on this platform is a significant part of what I dislike about it. The other part has something to do with Android’s insularity in the free software world.

The Worpdress client is nice though.

Commerce :

  • Pocket Auctions for eBay – Good for sniping on the go.

Personal information management :

  • Astrid tasks/todo lists manager – Well balanced user interface, tags and synchronizes with Remember The Milk. Too bad that as with anything on Android compared to Palm OS the graphical user interface is horribly slow.
  • Facebook Sync – The lazy way to have a picture for most of your contacts. I like to see the caller’s face. Now superseded by SyncMyPix.
  • Gravatar Importer – Same as Facebook Sync, but uses your contact’s email addresses to search for a Gravatar and set it as the contact’s picture.

Sound :

  • Frequency Generator – Combine signals of various shapes and frequencies. Nice for the sound curious.
  • Ringdroid – Easily cut and use any MP3 file as a ringtone. If you want to use a song as a ringtone, you absolutely need this.
  • Robotic Guitarist – Great accompaniment for your lyrical improvisations.
  • Sonorox and Loops – Easy tune composition.
  • gStrings – A chromatic tuner.

I have yet to find a decent RSS reader that doesn’t choke on what I want to feed it.

For social networking, I use mobile optimized sites – or even the full one, and I have found that no dedicated applications are needed.

You may have noticed that for some applications in that list, I did not provide a link. That is because it is often very difficult to find the developer’s site, drowned in a sea of spammy application review sites.

Next step for me : find Maemo equivalents for all this, as I’ve got my mind set on leaving the disappointing Android environment and migrate to the Maemo platform that makes much more sense to me.