Android Apps for my Galaxy 3

I bought a Galaxy 3 over a month back. It is a really good phone for its price and fun to use too. I have quite a few apps installed and found some really nice ones.


The phone comes with a pre-installed copy of  ThinkFree Office, which is fine for editing and viewing office documents. It also lets you view PDF files.

The Daily Briefing app is useful, showing your calendar tasks and weather updates, apart from Yahoo Finance and AP News (both of which I don’t use).

I use Daily Expense Manager to keep a tab on my spendings, it’s a really useful app apart from the fact that you can only enter expenses, not income.

The Evernote and Dropbox apps are pretty usable and are actually useful, even on the slightly cramped screen.

Internet and Social:

Opera Mini is the browser of my choice, for I can get Indic fonts to work with it. Dolphin Browser is good for viewing full websites (not mobile-optimized) if you are on 3G, but Opera Mini is far more useful for those stuck with GPRS and EDGE.

There are apps for Twitter, Facebook, etc but I prefer to use TweetDeck.

The GMail app is good, and there is an app for Yahoo! Mail too. But the default mail client doesn’t work with my work mail which uses Exchange.

There is a Google Talk client, but I prefer Meebo as it lets me connect to multiple IM services.

I have the WordPress app installed, which I am using to publish this post. The Youtube app is the only place where Flash works, and the app is good enough to view a short video. The small screen doesn’t actually let you enjoy longer videos, such as movies.

Games and Entertainment:

I am not much of a gamer, but I tend to play a few games when I feel like it. I particularly love Slice It, which is a lovely game that tests your touchscreen skills and also  a bit of geometry.

I have quite a few Sudoku games installed, however I’ll be uninstalling almost all of them soon. This is a situation where I might as well create an apk for my own use.

Jewels is similar to Gweled ( a.k.a Bejeweled) and I like it enough to let it stay on my phone.

I use FBReader to read books. I tried out Aldiko and a few other apps, but not fit the bill apart from FBReader.

The Google Scoreboard app is fine, but seriously seeing cricket scores like Australia 245 – 620 England is not what I wanted, so I use ESPN ScoreCenter.

The default media player works fine, but it doesn’t remember the last played song, so I use Winamp. It lacks an equaliser, but it is a decent audio player with a touch of nostalgia.


Lookout is a security app that scans applications when you install them. You can also back up your contacts online using a free account. AppBrain is useful for installing apps, and is a good replacement for the default Market app.  AppMonster lets you manage your installed apps effectively and also back up the APKs to SD card. APNDroid lets you switch off and on data services easily. Google Reader, Sky Map and Maps work well too. NetCounter lets you keep track of data usage for different networks (EDGE, Wi-fi). NeoReader is the best barcode reader app I’ve seen for this phone. RealCalc is an advanced calculator and I love it.

If you have any apps that you love, do share it in the comments. Cheers!

Samsung Galaxy 3 – i5801

I finally upgraded from my dated Nokia 3110c to a new phone last month. And yes, it had to run Android. I chose to go with the Samsung Galaxy 3 for two reasons: Reliable service, and I have a newfound affection for Samsung of late. Their products have never given me any problems – except when my PC display went dead for a night. Even then the display was up by the time I got back from work, thanks to the friendly service person who came to check it long past his work hours (I assume they too work 9-6 like the rest of us.)

Having used this phone for over a month now, I can clearly see myself using my desktop and laptop less and less. Of course, I do use a desktop at work. But for personal mail, social networking, music, surfing blogs and other activities I use my phone nowadays. I have to get to my desktop for some purposes like programming, drafting long mails, seeing movies and the like. But for viewing music videos, sending a quick response to mail, this phone is more than handy.

It comes with Android 2.1 Eclair, and I’ve heard that an update to Froyo is on the anvil. I have rooted the phone, found it too buggy, and reverted to the Samsung 2.1 ROM that it came with.

The phone has a very decent display, but I thought the resolution (240 x 400) might be tricky. I have had no problems with most apps I have used so far. Using the on screen keyboard in portrait mode takes a bit of practice, mainly because the screen is narrow. But Swype saves users  the pain of tapping every key to type a word. (In fact, I typed this blog post and the two prior to it on my phone.)

Text messages are organised as conversations – which is useful if you are like me, forgetting what you had asked the person who just replied Yes or No. You cannot send a message to more than 20 contacts at a time though.

The default music player has the options normally expected, but it doesn’t remember which song you were listening to. The surround sound mode is not great, given the tendency of the bundled earphones to fall out of my ear. I recommend using a better pair earphones, like the Sennheiser MX series. The video player handled movies upto 720p fairly easily, but given the low number of pixels it was not great watching them. The YouTube app works pretty well, streaming videos without any lag over a 3G connection. But on EDGE and GPRS, you’ll need to be patient enough for the video to buffer.

The Wi-fi works well enough at home, where I use it ten metres and two walls away from my wireless router. The signal strength was as good as my laptop. I could transfer files from my home server without any difficulty and at speeds I did not expect. The camera has a basic 3.1 megapixels, with no flash. I wouldn’t use this camera unless I had nothing else on hand with which to capture a still. Especially indoors, the camera is not at all usable. Outdoors however, it is usable and the quality is comparable to most 2MP cameras on Sony Ericcson phones.

The battery didn’t last me the whole day when I first used it. However, letting it drain and then charging it to 100% did the trick, and it lasts just under two days for a single charge. That’s commendable, considering I use GPS for an hour or so, Wi-fi for two odd hours and play music for two hours a day.

The GPS didn’t work properly at the first try, but a simple trick set it right. Dial *#*#1472365*#*# and you’ll be presented with the GPS settings menu. Press back, and it starts working fine.

That’s my review of the Galaxy 3, after a month of regular use. I have many apps installed too, I’ll tell about them at a later time.

When open is not open, and reviving a hard disk

I was doing some work on when I saw the term Microsoft Office Open XML(OOXML) on a site and was duly shocked at this openness, then it struck me that I had heard someone talk about this format(at a FOSS event in college) and Microsoft’s attempt to get it ratified as an ISO standard. I wondered if they had managed to buy people out, and unsurprisingly they had. I don’t have anything against the corporation, they develop some good looking (don’t get me started on the performance) software and good hardware. What I don’t believe in is the abuse of their position as an established and respected company. If you want your format to become the industry standard so badly, try to make it better than the current benchmark, which still is the Open Document Format. I do not see any advantage of OOXML over ODF, be it file compression, compatibility, uniform implementation etc. The previous document format, .doc was fine, but was not compressed enough.

If Microsoft was so particular on using an Open format, they could have adopted ODF. Why can’t you? Star Office is commercial, and uses ODF, so there’s no stopping Microsoft from using it. The only advantage of OOXML is that it is supported by the office suite with largest user base, Microsoft Office. The argument no longer holds water, since Office 2007 supports ODF from Service Pack 2 onwards. This unethical buying of approval is what makes me dislike MS. I still respect Bill Gates as a messiah of the personal computing revolution, but I am no longer reliant on MS software. I have the freedom of choice courtesy Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Guido van Roosum and numerous other people who have made the world of open source heaven.

A rather interesting thing happened this week. A friend’s external hard disk had gone berserk and wouldn’t open in XP or Ubuntu. Saravanan(A genius, an RHCE and a linux freak/geek all rolled into one person! ) and myself helped him out, but it didn’t work out. So I got his hard disk home yesterday and set down to work. I booted up my favoured OS, Fedora 11 and it detected the disk but did not display the contents. So I got into a virtual terminal and force mounted it and voila, everything was normal. I copied all data to my hard disk, formatted the external drive and then copied back all the data. It worked fine on Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, XP, Vista and Seven. This is another advantage of using open source software such as Fedora. It helps you solve others’ PC troubles and yours too!

I went to a research conference Dhi Yantra 2009(means Intellectual Machine in Sanskrit) which focuses on High Performance Computing and Human Brain Modeling(I’m more interested in the former). Today was the first of the three days. It was an illuminating experience listening to people like Dr. Murali Murugavel from from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and several other WARFT alumni and research trainees. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions which are to concentrate on supercomputing. Dr. Rupak Biswas, who is Acting Chief, Supercomputing Division, NASA Ames Research Center; Dr. Rajesh Kasturirangan, Associate Professor, National Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore and Research Scientist, MIT, Boston and a few others will deliver their keynote lectures over the weekend.

The Ashes test seems to be going Australia’s way after a long partnership between Katich and Ponting. I wonder why Harmy is not playing, he could have changed the course of this game. If Aussie selectors were fools in dropping the crazy diamond Symonds, their English counterparts are fools on a higher plane. Here’s hoping England get back into this game, and have a nice weekend ahead!

Chinese government using pirated software?

We all know that software piracy is rampant, especially in developing countries. Among the larger nations, China must be the largest consumer of such illicit products. A new development is the regulation that a particular screening software named Green Dam Youth Escort must come pre-installed on all systems sold in China. The regulations come into force in a fortnight’s time from July 1. Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said:  “The purpose of this is to effectively manage harmful material for the public and prevent it from being spread….. The Chinese government pushes forward the healthy development of the internet. But it lawfully manages the internet.”

There is a limit to what the responsibilities of a government are. An initiative to remove all sex-screening ads from Indian search was laudable, for it helped fight the evil of female infanticide. But what is happening in China and has been happening for long now, is cyber dictatorship. You cannot browse any site that the government says you should not.  Mr. Qin Gang added the software would filter out pornographic or violent material. There is no clear definition of those terms, so I wonder what all the fuss is all about. The internet is a source of knowledge, good and not so good, and it is left to the user’s discretion to decide between what to use and what to ignore. This type of patronising attitude on the government’s part is worrisome in that the users have no choice but to follow whatever the government does. We very well know bloggers who do not agree with the communist philosophy are sent to solitary confinement, and these bloggers have been intellects like professors and teachers.

Now to the point, the software named Green Dam Youth Escort is not actually their own product, but the rip-off a child internet safety software, Cybersitter made by a California based company Solid Oak.

“If China had gotten hold of free pirated copies of Microsoft’s Windows and told Dell and HP to put this on all computers you ship, you would hear a loud outcry. China has a very loose interpretation of what is intellectual property,” said Mr Brian Milburn of the Santa Barbara based company.

According to the BBC the company is contacting Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other computer makers to stop the compromised material from being shipped. Chinese programmers vehemently deny these facts, but cannot hide behind their veils these days. After all, the Chinese have reverse engineered Russian warfare technology, rebranded it and proclaimed it as their own. That is surely not indigenous, sir! It is plagiarism, and an act of theft committed knowing full well that you are making fools of the Russians who sold you that defence equipment.

I believe that this is the first instance of a government promoting use of pirated software, throwing to winds international laws on intellectual property rights.

Linux outgrows itself!

A few moments before I began typing this, I checked out the Ubuntu Free CD request page to see if I could order Jaunty Jackalope (that’s the code name for Ubuntu 9.04) which was released yesterday. Lately my torrent client has stopped working since I bought a new router, and I did not want to increase the load on HTTP/FTP servers. So I went to the Ubuntu Free CD Request Page, to see if I could order a CD online. Surprise, surprise! The site was offline and this was what I beheld:

Ubuntu's Free Media Page Offline!
Ubuntu's Free Media Page Offline!

Now this is the first time I’ve seen this page taken offline. So it’s clear that Linux, specifically Ubuntu is making a dent in the mainstream desktop OS market, which has till date been monopolised by, you know what that thing is, yeah, Windows. A major story that has been making news this week is the dip in sales for the Redmond based Microsoft, the big daddy of software manufacturers. This can be due to fall in PC sales, but another factor that may go neglected is that Linux based operating systems such as Ubuntu have been replacing Windows slowly. They may never overtake Windows in the desktop space, but they present an alternative, free to tweak as far as you take it, to Windows.

I’ve been using Linux on my PC for the past three years now. The first distribution I tried was openSUSE 10.1 in September 2006. I was amazed at the eye candy and the speed. Yeah, it was cooler than Vista or Aero, and ran on a quarter gigabyte of system memory! I’ve since used many other distributions, but the images of my PC performing faster than I could ever dream of, and those marvellous visual effects, will remain etched in my memory for long. I can’t say Linux is perfect, though. Out of the box (as soon as you install it and run it the first time) many essential features may be unavailable. These are mostly audio-video support, driver support (that’s no more an issue now, Vista is worse than Linux in device support) and some small quirks (such as where the hell is office!). But these do  not bother me at all. I’m patient enough to download and compile/install all these packages. Many are not, so I suggest you take a look at Sabayon 4.0(I’m using it right now, and its a breeze to install. Only quirk for the new user: compiling from source, although many packages are available as binary installers these days.) This is an awesome distribution, breezy and easy to  use. I wish there was more awareness about this alternative to Windows, so that people who cannot afford the money to buy shareware could benefit from this new wave. Yeah, for the cost of a Windows licence(5000+ rupees) one can feed a child for two months. So I think this is the time for a new revolution to make knowledge accessible to all.

Is technology in cricket a burden to the game?

“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” is an oft-quoted remark in Software Engineering. The same holds true in many other realms, including the rules of cricket. Of late, we’ve seen many new rules coming into effect for the sake of introducing new technology. In this article, we’ll delve into this development that has fuelled many debates.

In this era of technological advancement, where technology has pervaded every aspect of our lives, cricket has remained among the few sports that have resisted the urge to adopt technology to a large extent. But this scenario is changing and changing fast. Over the past three decades, we have been witness to the slow and sometimes controversial adoption of technology in cricket.

With the advent of Kerry Packer were born the concepts of night matches, entertainment during breaks and television coverage. For the first time since the fifteenth century, cricket was being – as some called it – monetized. About the same time as India won the World Cup in 1983, the introduction of colour television helped bring about a sea change in the way the game was played and viewed. White balls were introduced, coloured clothes were introduced for the shorter versions and the game became more spectator oriented.

The 1990s saw further adoption of technology in the form of slow motion video. This was primarily used to aid the umpire in deciding on close appeals.Through all these advances in cricket technology, one aspect of the game remained unchanged – the sacrosanctity and authority of the umpire. We have been privileged and honoured to see one of the greatest umpires in cricketing history – David Shepherd. Umpires of his ilk, such as Dickie Bird are still revered by many. Theirs are names that evoke respect in players and followers of the game alike.

But in recent years, technology has been introduced that supersedes the authority of the umpire. The International Cricket Council, earlier the Imperial Cricket Conference, has been experimenting with rules that allow for technology to be used in case the players do not agree with the umpire’s decision. Among the technologies available are:  Snickometer to detect faint edges, hawk-eye to measure and predict ball trajectory, hotspot to check ball or bat impact. The ICC rules allow only for non-predictive technologies. For example, in a leg-before decision, the umpire can see the trajectory of the ball till its point of contact with the pad/bat. Technology is available that can predict the path of the ball beyond this point, but no one can ever predict the path of a cricket ball due to its unique shape and aerodynamics.

The introduction of these new rules by the ICC has fuelled many debates regarding the status and authority of the umpire. Cricket is among the few sports that can claim to be steeped in tradition from the sixteenth century since the creation of the Hambledon Cricket Club in 1598. Cricket has always been regarded as a gentleman’s sport, and central to this status are two clauses:

1. Respect for the rules and the opposition players.

2. The sanctity of the umpire.

The first clause is almost always adhered to, and rarely do we see anyone show disrespect for the rules or his opposition players. But the second clause stands the risk of being offended by the continually diminishing authority of the umpire that has been the handiwork of the ICC. Due to these new rules, players frequently question the umpire’s decisions and dent his authority that has been a cornerstone of cricket over the centuries. So it is high time that the ICC take a call on whether to maintain the gentlemanly status of cricket or to modify rules for the sake of technology. Bob Dylan’s lines hold true here:

For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Cricket can lose out on adopting technology, but the traditions of this wonderful game shall be carried forward for many more centuries to come.

The author is a student of Computer Science and Engineering at SSN College of Engineering, Chennai.

Microsoft dive into social networking, or do they?

Researchers at Microsoft plan to release soon, a search engine to test their latest technologies. This site will be separate from Live search, that is already offered to customers. The site named Viveri for now is currently still being developed. This site was among the new products at Microsoft TechFest 2009 on February 24. Some of the features of Viveri might be ultimately be integrated into Live search, but for now the development threads are not being merged.


Viveri URank -  snapshot of the sign-in page.
Viveri URank - snapshot of the sign-in page.



Researchers will have a new way to test their newly discovered concepts and get feedback from the users, without the need to add them to Microsoft’s mainstream search engine.  Among the features  shown today was one that automatically puts results from niche search engines in modules next to the main search results. 

Says a Microsoft Research software architect Robert Rounthwaite: “Most people are not going to want to have their lives interrupted by the latest wacky idea we have, but some people will, and their feedback will help us figure out which ones aren’t so wacky.”

Microsoft currently holds a 9 percent market share in Internet Search in the US, and it remains to be seen if Viveri can help improve on that figure. But Rounthwaite analogises it to concept cars used by carmakers to show the public what their future cars might, or might not look like. For a useful tip on using this search engine, goto the URank blog.

Google phone with new Android firmware launched.

This year’s edition of the GSMA Mobile World Congress at Barcelona has seen only one phone launch as of this writing, and it is a Google phone! The new phone, HTC Magic was

The hTC Magic, unveiled at GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009, Barcelona.
The hTC Magic, unveiled at GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009, Barcelona. Image source: BBC

unveiled by Vodafone. It has updated Android firmware, named “Cupcake”. This touchscreen(isn’t that obvious!) phone has a 3.2 MP camera, Wi-Fi and GPS.  It does not, however have a slide out keyboard.  This phone will contain the on-screen keypad from the Cupcake firmware.  The Android Market, Google’s competition to Apple’s iPhone App Store, currently has over 800 applications. This is where users can get applications, currently free, for their Android phones.

Another interesting development over the week has been that the Android Market could be opened up to commercial applications, which will make it more popular among developers. This means that more applications for the Android framework can be anticipated. It remains to be seen if this phone can be a worthy competition to the iPhone. I presume it’ll take a few more firmware revisions and better acceptance from manufacturers before the Android platform truly takes off.

The HTC Magic will be on sale in the UK,  Germany, Spain and France as a Vodafone exclusive phone. It’ll also be available soon in Italy non-exclusively.  The phone won’t accept standard headphones as it uses a proprietary jack. It comes pre-loaded with several Google applications such a Maps, Mail and Search. Pricing details are not yet available but it is estimated to go on sale at around 150 to 200 euros, remember it it launched by Vodafone Europe. And no, it won’t be available in India anytime soon.