Android Sensor Applications

Modern Smartphone’s are amazing! And I really love my latest – Epic 4g Touch (Sprint’s implementation of the Samsung Galaxy S2).

This thing rivals, and in some cases exceeds, the capability found in full blown laptops of just a few years ago. What makes Smartphone’s like these so amazing is the massive amounts of ‘sensors’ these devices now contain.
Most have GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes, light sensors and  more! All in a little hand held form factor. Oh, and they can actually make calls to just about anywhere from just about anywhere.

There are many tools and applications available to help you fully utilize these capabilities and features. Here are some that I use.

Metal Detector application – exactly what is sounds like. Make sure you calibrate it. [which by the way is NOT a gimmick and does work!].

Google StarMap Point your phone at the sky, and Google Sky Map will show the stars, planets, constellations, and more to help you identify the celestial objects in view. You can also browse the skies in manual mode.

GPS Status & Toolbox – not only is this a cool GPS device I’ve found that it is great for resolving other GPS issues; like when you navigation or maps app won’t ‘lock on’ to your location. Simply launch it and reset it or download A-GPS data regularly to keep your GPS fast and hassle free.

AndroSensor A tool that lets you know virtually everything about your device’s status. If you want to see what sensors your Android device actually has AND see what information they are recording/seeing check it out.

Radioactivity Counter Let’s you turn your Android device into a Geiger counter! For real. I may try this app that sounds pretty incredible. You can read more about it here.

Once again HERE is a list of applications installed and the current configuration of my phone.

That’s all for now. Just thought I’d throw up some of these for reference.

iDevice Backups

If you have an iPhone or other iDevice, you’ve probably wondered at some point how to backup iPhone data. There’s actually a pretty easy way to backup your entire iPhone using the iTunes software. The procedure requires a few steps, but everyone should be able to do it. Hopefully you did this when you 1st got your phone or other iDevice following Apples instructions. But I wanted to point out a few things and some alternative methods for insuring you can access your data. Especially if you have made many additions to your device; pictures taken, music downloaded apps purchased etcetera.

I have found that iTunes is KNOWN TO WIPE YOUR DATA – APPS, PICTURES AND MUSIC if you have not set up the sync/backup correctly!! I can’t tell you how many calls and emails I get from folks who have synced their iDevice only to find all their information has been wiped! And once wiped it is nearly impossible to retrieve (save for expert data recovery services $$).

So let’s start the Apple way:

To start the iPhone/iDevice backup, connect your iPhone to your computer with your USB cable, then start iTunes. Go to the devices list on the left side of the screen, and select your iPhone. You then need to right click on your iPhone, and select “Back Up”. This will start the backup procedure, and will take some time depending on how much data you have stored on your phone. Once the backup is complete, you will now have a complete collection of all your phone data stored on your computer. If your phone should get destroyed, you’ll be able to restore all of your existing data to a new phone. You can read Apple’s tutorial here for how to back up you iDevice here and here.

One thing I don’t like is that iTunes Store and App Store content on your iOS device may not automatically transfer to your computer as you might think by just doing a ‘sync’ or backup with iTunes. You can use the Transfer Purchases option in iTunes to ensure that all iTunes Store and App Store content is transferred to your iTunes library. Read how here.

I have found that getting pictures off of many iDevices – especially phones seems to be a major source of issues. I have used, with great success, many third party applications to ‘grab’ music, photos and videos from iPhones and iDevices for family and friends. If you have an iDevice I couldn’t recommend any more strongly  that you have at least one of these applications in your toolbox! Spend a little $ and get a real solution.

Now my way(s)!

The application that I have used most is DiskAid. It just works and you can do so very much with it! Check it out. It has the ability to do a complete backup of the ENTIRE iDevice, quicker and more thoroughly than iTunes.

Some others I’ve used are:

iPodAccess Mac version or PC version



And finally a very good freeware application for getting stuff of iDevices to pc is called SharePod.

As a final note if you have an iDevice a must have application is this – Find My iPhone. It is now free and enables you to:

• Locate your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac on a map
• Display a message on the screen
• Play a sound for two minutes at full volume (even if your device is set to silent)
• Remotely lock your device
• Remotely wipe your device to erase your personal data

OK folks be safe and keep your data backed up!

Reduce high cell phone carrier data usage issues on your Smartphone

A friend recently got a new phone – Samsung Galaxy S2 from AT&T, and she noticed that she is using loads of plan data somehow. Now I know that the aspect of having a new much more capable device might at first cause a spike in usage – downloading applications, watching videos, checking web services more etc. But she has notice that in a couple of weeks she was at 65% of her total plan allotment! Something is up.

I started to ask in forums and look around on the net and found that more than just a few others are noticing this too! What appears to be happening is that there are some apps that will keep using 3G connections to ‘check in’ using up data allotments. EVEN when WiFi is available.

In my previous post, here, I provided some information on how to use Titanium Backup to back up your system and remove or ‘freeze’ bloatware’ and other system applications.

One app I noticed that appeared as a common offender mentioned in many, many posts was the AP Mobile app. (I have already removed this app via Titanium so didn’t notice it I guess).

I would recommend that if you have this poorly written app you remove or at least ‘freeze’ it. Then check your data usage over the next few days.

Here is a very recent sample post from XDA forums:
“I didn’t think much about data usage until last week when I checked my AT&T account and noticed that I was already 50% through my allocated 2GB data limit. I’ve been mostly on WIFI since the device was activated and the few times that I was on 3G/HSPA was during my 30 minute lunch breaks. It didn’t make much sense considering I’ve had no time to mess around with the phone (aside from tweaking the widgets and checking my e-mails).

Anyways, fast forward a few days and after installing data manager, I discovered that AP Mobile (Stock TW widget) had used over 500MB+ of data. :-/ Apparently, I’m not alone. A quick glance at other forums and websites confirmed that AP Mobile was notorious for using heavy amount of data. It may not be an issue with users with unlimited data but to us fellow mortals, every megabyte counts. :-P?”

Another link with even more horror stories can be found here.

So clearly this is just one application I think everybody with a limited data usage plan should at least ‘freeze’ or better yet disable. I don’t like things ‘checking’ in that I haven’t allowed/authorized anyways so this is no big deal for me. There are others I’m sure but you’ll have to experiment with those.

One more thing to check is that your ‘web widgets’ – CNN and other types of web/news feeds (RSS) are not updating at too often an interval. Or that they are not updating at all unless you tell them too – manually.

I have an unlimited data portion of my plan (Sprint), so I’m not too terribly worried about ‘overages’ but I still want to know what’s going on.

So here are some more tips for lowering data usage all can use:

1. Manage all linked accounts, such as Gmail, (Google) Facebook, Twitter, and auto-sync apps (many come with the phone such as Stocks, Weather, News), though some may be downloaded. Most phones have this folder in settings. When un-checking the “Sync automatically” box, You can modify when and how often your linked accounts and apps sync to update their information. Some, you may still want to sync often and automatically (I have most that way, but again I’m not worried about data charges; yet!) But you may find it useful to change the frequency settings or change to sync when you open or actively use the app. Also uncheck boxes that state any apps can sync, receive, and send background data at any time. This applies to all other apps, like games or any you download from your app store.

2. You might want to make sure your GPS  is turned OFF, when not being used some carriers charge for this through data usage (not sure if AT&T still does – probably though). Many many people I know forget about this and/or don’t even realize when it’s on, and didn’t realize how much data it incurred as well as why their phone died so often. A good indicator of it being on is that it’s a MAJOR battery drainer. When using location serviced apps like maps that work better with GPS satellites, make sure you have it set to ASK every time it wants you to turn on GPS satellite access. And be SURE to turn it off when you are done using it. (not sure of others, but I have to manually turn mine off.

3. Utilize Wi-Fi when it is available. This is the best way to avoid data, granted you stay connected to Wi-Fi. Many people have trouble keeping an active Wi-Fi connection even if they are close to their router. [With the newer WiFi routers and expecially a good new phone this isn’t much of an issue anymore.]

** Most people also have the option to turn off the mobile network when your phone is idle or asleep, (not actively being used) so that nothing can sync. This means NO data can be sent, synced, or received (apps, email, internet, & mms txt messages) until you wake up the phone.  (which usually, unless manually set otherwise, toggles mobile network back on)

You can still receive calls & sms text messages without the mobile network enabled.  It will promptly resume when you do use the phone again unless you have it set where you must manually enable it. This helps people limit unknown data usages at odd hours as well as save battery life.

Well that’s all for now folks. Stay connected, be frugal and have fun. Peace Out.

Backing up Android phones

I’ve said this before many times before and I’ll keep on saying it, – back your sh$t up! If you do not have a backup solution for your digital information and devices, it is just a matter of time before you lose it/them and are screwed (or at least severely compromised).
I have written numerous posts on how to back up your Mac or Windows machines – just search my blog for those. Here I wanted to get into backing up your Smartphone.

These days most people have a wealth of information on their cell phones. Particularly the latest smart phones. These are now full featured computers that contain so much information it is truly incredible. Once one has upgraded or purchased a phone, gone through the process of getting it configured to their liking, adjusting all the system settings/functions and installed and configured applications it really sucks to have to do it all over again if you ever lose your phone and have to replace it, have to ‘wipe’ your phone (whether it’s done remotely for security reasons or by a store technician) or have an application issues that causes system crashes. And sometimes you can never seem to get all of your applications and settings back to where they were.

Enter Titanium Backup. This is the must have application for every Android phone. AND the number one reason (in my opinion) to ‘root’ your phone. With the simple ‘One-Click’ root available for most Android phones that Idescribed here it is very simple to gain root access. Once you’ve rooted your phone head over to Android Market and install it. The basic application is free and can do most things you will need. But I would still recommend buying the Pro Key to add a few other VERY powerful features.

The users guide can be found here. And a pretty decent video is here (pay particular attention to the point of ‘freezing apps’ around the 1:43 mark).

Here is another very good (and long/detailed) review and tutorial on the many benefits and functions of the Pro Version. I’d suggest you watch it for some fantastic tips and maybe some other uses for your situation(s).

Take your time and figure out this application and please USE IT. I have mine set up to back up every night locally and to DropBox (only available on the Pro Version). But I’m a back up fiend, you may be OK with weekly backups.

I also have used this to ‘Freeze’ applications and actually uninstall carrier ‘bloatware’ and crap hogging up data and space. SOME CARRIER APPS ARE ROBBING YOU OF YOUR CARRIER DATA LIMITS AND YOU MAY NOT KNOW IT! (more on that in my next post!)

Manage Applications – Freezing and uninstalling with Titanium


List of apps

Tapping the “Backup/Restore” button brings you to the application list – or rather the list of available “items”. Here you can see which applications and settings are available on your phone, and what has already been backed up (the symbols to the right tell you the latter – hit your phones menu button and select “Legend” for details on what they mean).

Tapping an application brings up a popup from which you can select actions to be taken with the selected item: You can e.g. run an application, back it up, and restore it (or its settings). You also may also decide to un-install the application – even if it is a system app! But with the latter, you should be very careful: Remove the wrong thing, and your phone may start malfunctioning; which is why you should first try whether it’s safe to remove that system application. This can be done by “freezing” it.


Properties of a backup

Freezing is only available with the PRO/Donate version. It makes the application unavailable to the system without deleting it. If your phone starts with some strange behavior, you can simply “defrost” the frozen application, and everything should be fine again.
Tapping-and-Holding brings up a different set of choices, but again just concerning the tapped (and held) application: You can search for all files belonging to it, view the app in the market, re-create the market link, if it does no longer appear in your market downloads (or do the opposite, detach it from the market), or move it between internal and SD storage – even if the app does not officially support this.

I’ve added another list of applications I have installed with direct Android Market links and QR codes again for those few who asked here.

I hope this helps some of you who have asked.

Some more notes on the Samsung Galaxy S2

After helping a friend for a very short time with her new phone; initial setup and one-click root downloading a few applications and such. I realized that many of the simple things I did to my phone to make it so kick ass and incredibly usable, I had already forgot how to do quickly and efficiently.

And one of the really cool things about Android 2.3.x devices is that you can configure your home screens AND which order they are displayed and which one is the default one.
So here are some tips for just that – set the home screen(s):

Pinch the home screen. you will then see all your ‘home’ screens. [you can ‘shuffle them around if you like by placing your finger on them and rotating them]

Then click on the ‘menu’ button’ – lower left one at the bottom. This will bring up a option “Set as Home”, click on it then..
Pick the home screen you want to be your primary/first home screen – it will ‘light up’.

Then click on the ‘Done’ item at the bottom of the screen. (don’t click on delete!).

Then simply click on the ‘Home’ menu button (bottom of phone second from left) and voila, You now have the home screen of your choice!
Here is a video of the process (sorry for the blurriness)

And here is a good link with way more in depth information and VERY good video at the bottom. Video alone is worth checking this out.

Also the Galaxy S2 is a really durable device; especially the Super AmoLED+ display. If you don’t believe me, you must check out this short video! It should make any iPhoner cringe.

But of course I still got a case for my phone.

I bought 4 of these things from Amazon. The are models for all Samsungs, here is the AT&T one. I love how slim this is and it fits snuggly. I’m sure that if I continually open and close it (to insert different/new micro sd cards), that it will ‘wear out’. But for the price it simply can’t be beat. Already dropped my phone a few times and it has kept it from scratches or nicks. I’m going to by a few more to have on hand. Like I said for this price it’s silly not to have a couple.

Although the glass is very strong I think I am still going to get a cover for the screen anyways and see if they have any effect on the touch functioning.
Found some highly rated ones here. Sprint or AT&T

Some other items you might consider;

An additional wall charger and car charger.

High quality micro USB cable. I have mentioned before of the need to make sure you have a HIGH quality data cable(s). These often make the difference of being able to quickly and easily sync/connect devices and hour of frustration trying to figure out ‘why’ your device is not quite recognized. Here is one such cable.

Well that’s it for now have fun.

Amazingly Simple One-Click Android root

This is a follow up on my previous post(s) about rooting your android phone.
I posted some specifics for my personal phone – Epic 4G Touch (Sprints version of the Samsung Galaxy S2) here

Now comes an incredibly simple one click ‘root’ that looks like it will work to ‘root’ a WHOLE BUNCH of Android phones (including the Epic 4G Touch) with incredible ease!
Check this site OUT!

Directions are DEAD SIMPLE.
Follow – in order, and you will gain ‘root access’ to your phone with out changing ANYTHING else! That means that you will then be able to install applications that require ‘root’ system access.

Make sure as it states in step 1 to set the device to USB Debugging Mode.

Download the application here.

Follow the directions and MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A HIGH QUALITY USB CABLE! Poor quality cables are the cause of MANY failed updates and connection issues!! I was having problems gettin my friends AT&T Galaxy S2 to root till I switched USB cables to a higher quality one. But once did get the good cable the root process took only a few minutes!

So now that you have root access here are the things you should do/get first.

Superuser: An application from the Android Market. lets you manage superuser (root user) permissions; this is the first app a newly rooted phone needs installed on it allowing you to approve/disapprove of applications install access permissions. This should be already installed via the root process but you can check if it is there by looking in the applications. If not try downloading and installing if it won’t install it means your are not rooted.

Root Explorer: [Market Link] This is a File Manager ($3.80): shows you the files you can now access as a root user.

Titanium Backup root [Market Link] This backs up all your apps, removes bloatware, and otherwise helps you manage apps. And break down and spend the money for the Pro Key for Titanium. As I have mentioned a few times in other posts this app alone is reason enough alone to root your phone!!
I believe it is inexcusable to NOT have your data systems backed up – regularly and fully! I am going to provide a follow up of how to use this application to it’s fullest for backups and recovery. [stay tuned]

Wireless Tether for Root Users [Market Link] This turns your phone into a mobile hotspot. [Use this application at your own risk. It is possible that use of this program may violate your carrier’s Terms of Service.]

I hope some find this helpful. I plan on helping many of my friends with other Android phones get the benefits of having a root access with such great ease!