Tag Archives: Android apps

Social Networking-The Creation & Consumption Of Content

Earlier in the month, I began writing for Social Samosa. My brief was to recap the major events in social networking over the past few years in India. Given how vast this is, I broke it up into two parts. I started with an article titled, ‘Social Networking: How Communities Were Built’. In that post, I looked at the connections aspect of social networking.

Image via Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot,

The second part of that story is now online in a piece titled, ‘Social Networking: The Creation & Consumption Of Content‘ where I discuss the other harbingers of the social media revolution – blogs, commenting systems, bulletin boards, discussion groups and everyone’s favorite birdie – Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Online content creation began with a few individuals putting out text & images that could be consumed by other users of the internet. In the recent years, though, we’ve seen content creation get closer & closer to the space that we call social networking.  A content creator is not an artist working in isolation but the initiator & propagator of conversations.  The social networks are but channels to drive conversations, which need content.  Thus it was inevitable that social connectors and content holders should find themselves merging in a borderless space.

‘Content creation’ is a misnomer since, increasingly, we are all becoming both producers & consumers of content.  One person feeds into the network a piece of information or an insight or a personal account (a phenomenon now called ‘seeding’ if done with the intent to propagate).  Others read it and share it on their networks (the phenomenon now called ‘going viral’).  Along the way, comments are added and other bits of content spring up in response to the first piece.  These could take several forms – blog posts, tweets, comments, status updates, pictures and videos, to name a few.  The conversation now spans multiple users, data points, media and web locations. Every user in this process has now become both a consumer and a creator of content.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Marvin’s World: My Daily (And Nightly) Health Nags

And now that I’m a self-confessed Android junkie, I’ve progressed from games to the other delights that the Market offers. Out of curiosity, I went looking for what this ‘techy’ bazaar had to specially offer a woman. I was hit by a barrage of menstrual-cycle linked apps. Of course, a mobilephone is a daily companion and who knows the value of a calendar better than a woman who has to figure out clothing, commute, food, grooming and schedule by predicting her body’s cycle?

Of the apps I looked at, WomanLog Calendar appealed the most to me. The app begins with a 5-step process (of which 2 are the ‘Welcome to this app’ and the ‘Congratulations, you’re in!’ announcements). The only really key part of this process is step 2, where you enter your average menstrual cycle length and the average length of your period, both in days. After that, you pick the beginning day of the week, set language and you’re done.

The app then opens up into a pink * cringe at the stereotyping* calendar. You enter your period cycle by clicking on a date, which takes you to a push-button screen. Here you can select the start & end dates. In addition you can also include details such as birth control pill consumption, Basal Metabolic Temperature (BMT), sexual activity, weight and notes. Other features include charts tracking weight and temperature.

Thoughtfully, a password-protect feature has also been provided to keep those prying eyes (or fingers) away from such intimate details. This is particularly interesting since a mobilephone is open to far more scrutiny and non-secure access than a computer.

Once I got over the pinkness of this app, I realised it was probably a must-have addition to Marvin. I’ve just added it so I can’t tell how good the charting will be, as yet but I see no reason they shouldn’t work right. The paid version, WomanLog Pro Calendar also lets one enter mood, cervical mucus (presumably to track infections) and provides notifications, which sound like great features to add to an already decent app.

WomanLog Calendar is a product of Pro Active App and is available for download in the Android Market and the iPhone App Store.

I haven’t been particularly health-conscious but the past few years have made me painfully aware that I’m not a teenager anymore. I spend most weekends catching up on a massive sleep debt accumulated during the week. The Android Market had something to say on this.

SleepBot Tracker Log sounded like it would be a stern mommy-figure type, wagging its finger in admonition at the unhealthy lifestyles of today. But instead, it turned out to be a sensible, easy-to-use app for the sleep-deprived advanced smartphone user segment of today. On installing the app, the first thing you can do is take a Sleep Debt Index Quiz, which looks at how sleepy you are likely to get in the afternoons, during phone conversations, commuting and other such drowsiness-striken situations. Based on this, you are given a Sleep Debt Index which tells you how sleep-deprived you are.

You use the app to track your sleeping patterns by clicking ‘Sleep’ when you fall asleep and ‘Wake up’ when you do. Alternately, you can also manually input the times of these two events. SleepBot logs the hours slept & napped and tracks the sleep debt you accumulate. You can change the settings to reflect what you think is optimal sleep amount for you.

Over time, the app graphs your sleep records to show you the fluctuations in your cycle. Other features include auto-flight mode (avoid calls in sleep), auto-silence during sleep, WiFi off when sleep button pushed, idle threshold (to determine when sleeping) and sleep/wake reminder text.

There is also a wealth of handy somna-related resources such as a Caffeine Content Chart, Sleep-inducing foods and a Bedside Necessities list. SleepBot also offers information on the nature of Sleep Debt, Sleep Disorders, Diagnostic tests and associated health problems. And finally, it offers quick tips on sleeping well.

All in all, SleepBot feels like a comprehensive sleep-related app and a very relevant one for the typical target user of smartphone. SleepBot Tracker Log is a product of SleepBot and is available for download in the Android Market.

Ideamarked Jun2011: Conspiracy Theories, eGadgets & Hakoba

Mid-month, I had coffee with two digital agency people to discuss the Indian blogosphere and the nature of content. On one hand, I’m delighted that the world is waking up to the thought that blogs are not just lunchtime amusement for the bored employee or the lovestruck teenager. With attention, I’m hoping will come the respect that any creator of original content deserves. On the other hand, it’s something that did come out of my own bored/frustrated moments, a diarying habit on multivitamins. It’s still curious to know that something that grew out of a personal quirk is now worthy of a distinctive opinion and even space.

But blogs, being reflections of people and their sentiments, must keep evolving as do their owners. While over at XX Factor, I’m moving to a more balanced perspective on relationships, men and such things, here at The Idea-smithy, I’ve gone back to my roots. Aside from my commissioned posts, the announcements of posts and press, I’ve also been posting snippets, stray thoughts and sundry commentary. I don’t know if you, my readers will like it or not but for now, this is me. Have a lovely monsoon!

  • How To Deal With Bullying & Harassment In The Workplace‘: Unfortunately, I don’t think we have any support systems legal or union. But it still helps to know that this happens and that it is wrong. (via Hubpages)
  • One for the foodies, if you’re wondering how to add that authentic East-Indian flavour to your vindaloo. (via East Indian Masalas, link courtesy Phyrodite)
  • If you’ve been a victim of unacknowledged praise (imitation, copycats, yada yada yada), Tynt might have a solution for you. The article reviews the product and offers some handy suggestions. (via Makeuseof, link courtesy Kirti Kapoor)
  • A Technophobe Unravels The Android Tapestry“:’Marvin’, my Android, showed up on Yahoo! Recommendations with an app-review!
  • 10 Classic Indianisms: Doing the needful and more“: As Indians we take zero pride in our identity. When we comprise 1/6th of the world’s population and godaloneknows how much of the English-speaking group, why is our usage ‘wrong’? (via CNNGO)
  • A person’s attitude to reading depends on the books they’ve experienced, especially early in life. Meet some of my childhood friends in “10 Great Vacation Reads For Children” (via FriendsofBooks)
  • E Vestigio came back to life with a poetic bit of writing, in silence.
  • Cracked was my favorite guilt-reading for this month: “10 mind-blowing Easter eggs hidden in music albums” (those mind-screwing musicians, them!), “7 Easter eggs in words of art(and you thought the Masters were all high-brow!) and “If Historical Figures Endorsed Modern Products” (heh, lookit Dali!) (link courtesy Dischordian)
  • A pretty white hakoba dress and a whole lot of imaginative photographs are up on Purple Peeptoes.
  • Navin Kabra has an existential question for the socially networked world, regarding a witness for one’s actions (via Facebook).
  • The 30 harshest author-on-author insults in history” (via Flavorwire, link courtesy Meenakshi Reddy).
  • “Yeh ladki hain ya ladka hain?” could well refer to the actor singing the song. Oh wait, who did she grow up into? (via Youtube)
  • Move over Sheila Kejwani and Munni Badam, errr…whozzat is here?! What is with Salman Khan casting lookalikes of his ex-es in his films? Catchy song though, this Character Dheela (via Youtube)

Marvin’s World: 3 Urban Survival Apps

It’s not just a way to let your mother/boyfriend/spouse/kid know where you are, anymore. It’s your shopping list, your address book, your scheduler, not to mention your status symbol. Marvin (my Android phone) certainly is mine.

I’m one of those women who likes to be prepared for every eventuality possible. Survival kits are like chocolate to me – essential! Just like real world shopping, the Android Market is equally attractive for its useful tools as for its fun stuff like games. These are some apps that are on my front screen for immediate access.

Sun Flashlight

 

My very first mobile phone was a basic Nokia 1100 (“Made for India”) whose only feature was that it had a flashlight. I never had that on a phone after that and I’ve missed it ever since. The number of times I find myself fumbling in poor lighting to read a sign or to open a door or even just find my way to my seat in a theatre, makes me wonder why mobile phone makers didn’t put that feature on more phones.

I remedied that on my Android with this app. Once installed, all you do is touch the icon and within seconds your screen lights up like a flashlight. It’s bright enough to light up a small room and provide adequate visibility that keeps you from bumping or falling.

Sun Flashlight is available for free download in the Android Market.

Mumbai Taxi and Rickshaw Fare

 

Any urban dweller knows that public transport is the holy grail of your personal happiness. The only good thing for me about the movie ‘Shaitan’ was a snide reference to the autorickshaw woes of an Mumbaiker. Earlier, I used to keep a fare card (bought off the local trains) that would have to be periodically hunted and replaced when the rates changed. Now I just upgrade the app.

There are a number of taxi/rickshaw fare apps available, by city and features. This one suited my purpose and I rather liked the logo of an autorickshaw meter. Here’s how it works: You feed in the rate displayed on the meter and check the Night Rates On/Off option (since rates increase after midnight in Mumbai). On the same screen below these, the corresponding fare for taxi and autorickshaw shows up immediately, eliminating all awkward fumbling and scrabbling for a paper rate card. Also, because taxi and auto fares both show up on the same screen, it lets you choose what you want instantly.

Mumbai Taxi and Rickshaw Card is a creation of Aditya Talpade and available for free download on the Android Market.

Gesture Search

And finally, because I like big bags and packing them in, I do the same with apps, photographs, music and other files on my phone. Finding the one I want is always a pain, no matter how organized I am. I often find myself wishing there was a ‘Find’ function in real life as there is in certain Microsoft applications.

I tried the Voice Search app but somehow my accent gets results that are amusing at best. Instead, I found Gesture Search much more useful. Gesture Search recognizes images that you trace onto the touchscreen and corresponds them to the names of contacts, images and files. The app also learns intuitively which means the results get better with use. You can imagine just how helpful this is when you urgently need to make a phone call without scrolling through hundreds of names.

Gesture Search is a product of Google Labs and is available for free download in the Android Market.

* A version is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Marvin’s World: Angry Birds & Aporkalypse

Don’t Be A Bird-Brain, Be A Pig!

Pop culture is a mystery. I’m stumped by the success of a game that involves catapulting scowling, winged creatures onto a building to destroy it. The movie Rio: Angry Birdsmay have contributed to its popularity but then again, most people I know went to watch it because of the game. Evidently omnipresence equals popularity.

I admit I’m not particularly enthused by shoot-em-down style games. But most people I know who enjoy those like more gore and grit in their graphics than Angry Birds‘ primary school cartoon depiction. What’s more, on my phone, I couldn’t even really see the angry bird expressions well enough to derive any comic value from them.

It’s not like Angry Birds is particularly challenging. I’ve been told by its diehard fans that it requires an understanding of physics. Really? Oh, and so does walking. Duh. On a tiny mobilephone screen, I don’t really get the intellectual kick of figuring out the perfect angle and propel velocity. On a bigger screen like a console game, I doubt I’d be interested in a game with such basic line-drawing/primary-colour graphics. And at an arcade, I’d just be too embarrassed to be seen around what I see as a little kiddies game.

But this is just me. Angry Birds (and the other versions it spawned including Angry Birds Rio) continues to rule not just gaming thumbs but popular lingo as well. The boy has taken to frowning and saying,

“Oof, you’re such an Angry Bird!”

each time I’m, well, angry. I had the following conversation on Twitter:

@ideasmithy: Temper has nothing to do with fur and feathers. #$%% Rio for popularizing a stupid phrase!! #angrybirds

@krist0ph3r: @ideasmithy my friend has pillowfights with her husband when she’s angry. she’s never heard of angry birds.

Angry Birds is a product of Rovio Mobile and is available for free download in the Android Market.

On the other hand, I’m really taken up with Aporkalypse. The protagonists are four pigs, each one with its own unique powers and behaviour. The game begins with Hungry Pig, a rotund, always starving piggie that can eat its way through obstacles but also regurgitate them for use as stepping stones and other things. Then we meet War Pig, strapped in porcine military style and armed to its chops to shoot down enemies. At a mid-level stage, the Pest Pig enters the game, resplendent in its green & smelly self and it can help you control enemies by stink-bombing them. And finally, there’s Ghost Pig which can move over crumbling bricks with ease, teleport each time someone dies but also come back to its ‘living’ self.

The game involves negotiating the pigs through a series of obstacles, facing down monsters, collecting coins and tending to special tasks like freeing pigs, all using a combination of each pig’s skills.The obstacles include crumbling walls that break down after you pass, rivers, slippery ice cubes, fiery paths, clouds and rivers. The maze is multi-level with staircases, bridges, trolleys, broken connections and sheer drops. And finally there is (slightly drunk-looking) Angel Pig and Devil Pig who will do their best to keep your pigs from doing what they want.

Aporkalypse is punctuated by tongue-in-cheek conversations between Angel Pig and Devil Pig between levels. The sound effects include grunting (!), Hungry Pig’s gobbling and War Pig‘s firing. Adding to the entertainment is the expression on the pigs’ faces when they’ve been shot at by War Pig, stink-bombed by Pest Pig or move between life & death (Ghost Pig). And finally, there’s all the additional effects like a stink-bombed location with emanating fumes, rotating coins, Devil Pig’s jabbing attacks and even random animals frozen within the ice cubes.

I think there’s actually only one possible way to get past each level. You can make the game even more complex but limiting your scroll options. There is no Map for a birds’ eye view of the game. And if you turn off the scrolling option, your pigs will negotiate their way across blind till the end of a corridor or river. I love the sensory detail in this game, right from its music to the elaborate depiction of obstacles to the perfectly tuned movements and expressions of the pigs. Aporkalypse also achieves that golden mean of staying one step ahead of the player to keep it interesting but not so difficult that it is frustrating to play it.

I’m currently on what I think is a middle level of the game since I can’t see a way to track the level number. The four pigs have come together for the first time in my game and I’ve been struggling to get them all across a maze of obstacles. But I’m enjoying every minute of it! And the end of it, a grunting piggie is just a helluva lot cuter than an angry bird!

Aporkalypse is a product of HandyGames and is available for free download as well as an extended, paid version in the Android Market.

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*A version of this is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

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