Tag Archives: Marvin’s world

The Instagram Story

The social media was all abuzz last month with Facebook taking over Instagram. I took a hard look at this uber-popular image sharing app. I’m still wondering why it got so popular. Here’s my Instagram story on Social Samosa.

“The word on the street associates Facebook’s interest in Instagram with wanting to acquire a competitor. Before the takeover, Instagram’s features do seem attractive for a standalone app. Especially if you’ve tired of the complexity of Facebook and the noise on Twitter, Instagram would seem like a neat, exclusive circle to share your life via pictures. With this takeover though, the dynamics just changed and it remains to be seen how this affects the Instagram loyalists and what powers it adds to the online superpower that is Facebook.”

Read the full Instagram story on Social Samosa.

Marvin’s World: Dash Games – Watch That Clock!

It’s a curious fact that all games mirror real world situations. For some reason, we enjoy playing a game, while its real world counterpart would probably have us bored or scrambling for excuses. Perhaps it has to do with the illusory sense of control & achievement that a game gives us, which its real-world counterpart may not.

I’m hopeless at time management in real life. Deadlines are met but with frantic dashing about & panicking. I get delayed, no matter how hard I try to make it on time. And my meetings & conversations stretch on long beyond what was intended. It’s curious indeed, that I love that genre of casual gaming called Time Management.

The Dash games are probably the most popular of the Time Management games. They involve performing a set of actions, at optimal speed & order in order to collect the rewards & progress to higher levels. I think Flo’s Diner and Sally’s Spa are the biggest of these and have spawned several knock-offs like Wedding Dash, Pet Dash etc. I’ve enjoyed the online versions of both these games before and it was just a matter of time (!) before I hooked up Marvin onto that ticking clock. Here are what I’ve been playing against the clock for:

Sally’s Salon Luxury Lite:Beauty Is A Fast Business!

This follows the standard Sally story, starting with her taking on a small beauty salon. The game begins with basic services like hair wash, hair cut, hair colour & blow dry. You pick the best choice of hair cut & hair colour based on the customers’ expression & get rewarded with hearts (and subsequently tips) accordingly. There are a couple of different customer types by patience level & tipping abilities. During the game, you are also offered options to upgrade services or buy new materials (like magazines, chairs, speed apron & coffee dispenser). Sadly though, in the initial levels, there really isn’t potential to earn enough to make any purchases outside a magazine and a coffee machine. Also, the free game ends at level 5, which means you also don’t have a chance to experience the spa extensions in other locations, the hiring of new staff or the merchandise counter, all of which add tremendously to the original game.

The graphics are colourful & quirky, matching the original game perfectly. Even on the tiny mobilephone screen, the details of hair styles, facial expressions & different customer types comes through perfectly. The game screen is a little bigger than the mobilephone window, which means scrolling left-right is necessary. Even so, the services are concentrated to the left of the screen and the payment counter is right in the middle. So if you’re really quick & don’t let the waiting line pile up (top left), then you manage nicely without ever having to scroll.

Sally’s Salon Luxury Lite is developed by Gamehouse and available for free download in the Android Market. Also see Sally’s Spa, a free demo by Gamehouse which lets you play just one round in the first level. The full version is available for Rs.105.78 as Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition.

Dinner Rush 2011 Lite: Customers On A Conveyer Belt Is Unpalatable!

This is a version of Flo’s Diner but doesn’t have the same charm. The key to both Flo’s Diner& Sally’s Spa is their key characters that are constants through all levels. Players superimpose their own identity on Flo or Sally & can empathize with her rushing about to fulfil orders or service customers. Dinner Rush focuses on the dishes rather than on the customers or the staff. Each customer glides in as a face at the top of the screen. They are seated & their orders taken by drag-drops. Once the order has been registered, a tiny menu made of colour blocks appears on the right side of the screen. The game is about clicking through in the correct order so as to complete that dish. Customers as a conveyer belt item to be processed isn’t a concept that I enjoyed. Much of the retail experience is the actual engagement between the service provider and the customers. All of that goes missing in Dinner Dash. The graphics of the food components are too tiny and too basic to grab interest via the cookery route. This is not a game that I’d recommend for Dash lovers. Electronic music is a staple of these games but possibly because this game was so boring, its music seem to grate on my nerves even more.

Dinner Dash 2011 Lite is developed by Nalbam Soft and available for free download in the Android Market.

Buffet Dash Lite: Waiter, There’s A Bug In My Game!

This is another spin-off from Flo’s Diner. Sadly, like Dinner Rush, this one also fails to deliver a good experience. It started when the music wouldn’t stop even after the application was exited. Turning the music off while the game was in progress didn’t help either. And finally, even Force Close/ Clear Data didn’t help. I finally had to restart my phone to get the annoying electronic music to stop. My guess is that this is a bug that occurs when you’re downloading or installing multiple apps.

The problem is the music is so grating that you really want to shut it off immediately. However, on silent mode, the game is disorienting as you can’t tell whether the tasks have been completed or not. The visual processing & completion of tasks that Sally’s Spa offers, is missing in this game and its a huge absence.

The graphics are mediocre, too tiny & bland to be able to make out expressions or even what is being cooked & served. One customer is much like another and the dishes are equally homogeneous. Buffet Dash Lite is blah and another must-not-have for Dash lovers.

Buffet Dash Lite is developed by Nalbam Soft and is available for free download in the Android Market…

IceCream Dash: Line Up, Don’t Dash

IceCream Dash Lite is more a line-up-in-row game (like Jewels) than Time Management.The premise is that each order of ice-cream requires ingredient assembly. These ingredients are not simply scooped & served as in other food Dash games. A grid appears of different coloured dollops. You have to line up 3 or more in a row to get them off the bin and onto the cone. It’s a novel attempt to marry two genres of casual games. Unfortunately it ends up being more of one variety and not the one that it purports to be, a Dash game.

The graphics are simple but a game of this nature doesn’t require very evolved images. The response time is a tad slower than the average line-in-one game, which means the game goes slower and builds frustration, since it is a timed activity. The music is monotonous but if you play it like you would play Jewels, you probably won’t even notice it. But by that premise, you probably want to play the original, Jewels, instead of a poor knock-off.

Ice cream Dash Lite is developed by Nalbam Soft and is available for free download in the Android Market.

Marvin’s World: Townsmen6 & Sea Empire

I’ve always enjoyed games that involve manufacturing, bartering & managing resources. A number of these follow a standard format. You’ve come to a new country (or city). You need to build houses for your people, identify food sources, create means of employment and facilitate economy. You may also need to manage a defense environment by building barracks, training army, manufacturing weapons and directing wars and/or defensive tactics. Along the way, you also complete tasks, quests and acquire upgrades, powers and medals.

Board games started me on Monopoly in its various delightful avatars and then progressed to Risk and the Catan games. The internet offered up a wide range right from the casual Empire to the MMORPG, Runescape. Even ZyngaGames tapped into this with Farmville, Cityville, Mafia Wars, Petville, Cafe Story and others.

The Android market has its share of options. Unfortunately for me, most of them seem to be incompatible with my device. Still, here are two that I found interesting enough to try out.

Townsmen6: The French Revolution!

The first, Townsmen 6 comes in a free version and a paid-for one. You start by entering one of the territories in France, during the French Revolution. You need to build houses, each of which adds two people to your population. Lumber huts and quarries must be established to gather basic resources. Food sources like farms, fishing huts and windmills & bakeries must be created. All of these need people to run there so you need to distribute your people accordingly in each place. The more people work in a building, the faster and higher its output. Other buildings that don’t require permanent employees like wells and storage sheds also must be built. At the first level upgrade, your existing buildings can be upgraded to employ more people and produce more.The next stage of progress includes more developed buildings such as universities (where scholars can research creating newer functions & buildings), coffee houses (where propagandists can be created) and military camps (to train and maintain soldiers). And finally, you can extend your control by moving to other regions and building your communities there too.

In Campaign mode, the territories you enter will already have some settlements, possibly hostile to new encampments. You may need to manage your community as well as protect them from conversion and/or attack. Weather plays a big role in the productivity of a community as well as their morale (which directly impacts productivity as they refuse to work in prolonged rainy weather). Starvation or lack of certain key resources can also cause strikes. And finally, you have a limited period to establish or turn around a community.

Townsmen 6 is great fun since it involves managing people, resources, schedules & war strategy.  Unlike many other phone app games, it allows for different ways to play the same game. Between region acquisitions, you’re also allowed to build in an additional chance component by flipping a coin for a lottery-style resource bonus.

Resource management games involve spending a lot of time staring at the same picture. Hence the quality of the graphics, the people’s expressions, movements and the look of the structures is extra important. Townsmen 6 has beautiful graphics and mood music to match. The level of detail in the trees, rain, farms and buildings ensure that boredom doesn’t set in. The people look like funny, little cartoon characters dressed in Medieval European style and scurrying about their work, grinning broadly or pouting (when bored). Strikes show these tiny citizens congregating outside buildings and pumping their little fists up and down. Low morale is depicted by a series of Zzzs issuing from the face of a sleeping townsman. All in all, the game is a visual delight as well as a completely satisfying experience for a junkie of this game genre.

Townsmen 6 is developed by HandyGames and is available for download in the Android Market.

Sea Empire: Island Mogul!

The other one, Sea Empire has you in the role of a sea captain, racing for sea economy supremacy across islands. Each island produces certain resources. You can mine them, ship them across to other islands and trade them for other resources. As your earnings increase, you can build more ships and/or buildings and thus grow your empire.

The Random Map option lets you design your game map by selecting number of islands, fortresses required to win, big resource islands and the number of opponents. Campaign mode takes you through specific missions on the map, doing these tasks.

Maps & directives are depicted on what looks like an ancient map, torn and faded at the edges. This is a nice touch. The soundtrack is an object splashing through water, alternated by sawing/hammering sounds during building, which works well. However, the aerial-only view is a bit of a turn-off. The grandeur of ships and the majesty of the sea are things we usually see at ground level. The graphics on this game are not high quality enough to substitute for that. The mobile screen is too small for one to be able to appreciate the look an island. This last is a vital missing component since a big part of resource management games is the sense of satisfaction the gamer gets, from seeing growth & development on what started as a bare plot. On Sea Empire, the islands just look like blobs with tinier blobs within them.

Gameplay happens by tapping on the island that you want to send your ship to, to trade, manufacture or build. Possible options for these are presented in the same cream colour as the rest of the screen while options that are unavailable are in grey. The main screen also has a status bar showing what day it is, the level of each of your resources and a ‘speed up’ option. Overall, the game is promising but gets boring because of the monotonous visuals.

Sea Empire is developed by BluePlop and is available for free download in the Android Market.

Marvin’s World: Couple Toolkit1-iKamasutra Lite

A phone is a personal device. But a relationship makes two people’s lives mesh together in different ways. There is much that the Android Market has to offer to the tech-savvy, connected couple. Here’s the first for the best thing that a couple can do together:

iKamasutra: As the name suggests, this one is for heating up things in the bedroom. Based on the ancient Indian text on the art of love-making, iKamasutra Lite details 30 positions for sex. There are 9 categories. Each position has directions accompanied by an illustration. Bearing in mind the activity that this app aids, there are shortcuts such as ‘Shake to show random position.’ Each position can be marked as ‘Tried’, ‘Star’ and ‘To do’. Navigation across this list is made really easy by the home screen showing the following: Categories, All, Favorites (Starred), To Do, Untried, Tried, By Desire, Recent & Random. By Desire is a categorization based on Intimacy, Complexity & Strength and uses sliding rulers to measure each. The Lite version doesn’t have enough options for this search but the complete Kamasutra does so the paid version of the app should be interesting for this feature.

I like the idea of a discreet little app, that could replace a potentially embarassing tome sitting on a bookshelf, open to all eyes. My concern is that this app is a little too sticky. What could have set this one apart from the vast repertoire of Kamasutra-based information surrounding us, would have been attention to discretion & privacy. Here’s why I don’t think it meets those criteria:

  1. A number of intimate apps like menstrual cycle trackers have password protection. iKamasutra Lite does not.
  2. The background music (low-pitched veena strumming) might not be everybody’s idea of mood music but there are no volume or mute options. Hitting the main button to exit to main screen, shuts a lot of apps but not this one. While your home window comes back, the music still continues.
  3. A ‘shy’ app like this would need easy exits but iKamasutra Lite doesn’t provide one. What’s more, the exit route is not intuitive. To leave, you’ve got to hit the Back button, upon which you’re asked if you’re sure you want to leave and have to select ‘Okay’.
  4. There is also an option to share on Facebook and Twitter, which I think is just bizarre. It’s too scary, the thought that such an intimate bit of information could be inadvertently broadcast to the world by a wrong touch (highly likely given the circumstances, wouldn’t you think?).

All in all, I think this app looks very slick and is easy to navigate but much caution is recommended. iKamasutra Lite is developed by NBITE Inc and available for free download in the Android market. The app is also available for iPhone, iPad and Windows7.

Marvin’s World: Format Your SD Card


It has been awhile since the last Marvin’s World review where I showcased an urban survival kit of 3 Android apps. Mostly I’ve been caught up in other topics but also, Marvin refused to co-operate. New apps would not load, older ones would not update. After going through the process of selection and download, I’d get a message saying that the app could not be saved on the SD card.

I was advised to format the SD card, which is where I got stuck. The command refused to work. But today I managed to figure it out. I’m putting down what I did here. It might help any other techno-geeks like me who can’t figure out what the *whole* world seems to know. Or it might just be my personal manual the next time Marvin decides to act up.

  1. Back up all the information on your SD card (mine was music & images)
  2. Go to Settings
  3. Select SD card and Phone storage
  4. Press Unmount SD card
  5. Remove SD card from the side & wipe to remove any dust
  6. Put in the card again. The screen should show ‘Preparing SD card’ messages
  7. Now Format SD card (in the same window as step 4) should be highlighted. Select it.
  8. You’ll get a warning message telling you that all data will be lost. Ensuring all your data is backed up, go through with it.

And that’s it! My apps are back and loaded. And of course, so is Marvin’s World. I’ve a few themed-posts cooking up so stay connected!

Google Plus Versus Facebook: Early Thoughts

The day before yesterday, the boy mentioned Google’s latest product. Yesterday, the newspaper carried an article and I tweeted asking if anyone knew when it would be launched. Among the replies (that it already had been), I did get one incredulous one saying,

“I can’t believe you just tweeted that!!”

Yes,we tweeters are a snooty bunch, not unlike American High School movies. Shortly after, a friend ‘shared’ his post with me, which gave me a link to get into the network but not use it. This morning, I found I was suddenly in and able to create circles and ‘share’ myself. So I now have the latest snob-value accessory of the online-techy crowd – a Google Plus account.

I’ve spent the last hour exploring its features and occasionally tweeting about it. The fundamental premise that Google Plus is being marketed on, is the ability to share updates (and other things) selectively with only certain parts of your network (called Circles). Now Facebook allows for many of the same features but their privacy settings are rather clunky. What’s more, the past year has seen a few Facebook breaches and lapses which probably makes this feature of Google Plus, a definite, well, plus.

On the other hand, I’m wondering whether in the rush to get into the social networking race with Facebook, whether Google Plus really will sustain or just fall by the wayside (anybody remember Buzz?). For starters, there’s no other particularly interesting feature over Facebook. There is an easy way to integrate Twitter and Flickr but again, these can be done on Facebook with apps. Even the look and feel of Google Plus is very like Facebook (minus the ads). There’s a Stream which is like the Live Feed. Settings and Notifications are in pulldown menus in the top right-corner of the screen (a minor change over Facebook which has Notifications in the mid-left corner). Profile is laid out in much the same manner with photograph on the top left, main news in the middle body and friends details in the middle-to-bottom left.

One of the first things I noticed was that I could view the people in other people’s networks. Now that’s a Facebook feature I used to use to get around people who had set their privacy settings to not be visible on a general search. If you want to connect with someone, chances are you already know someone they know, even if those people are not connected to you. Somebody in that circle is bound to be open to searches. Get to their profile, look down their network and find the person you’re looking for. Facebook tweaked this awhile ago with an option to hide your friends list (though I think now you don’t anymore have the option to stay hidden from searches). Google Plus doesn’t give you the same benefit so of course, if you want to get snoopy and find out who is ‘in’ with who, look at their network. It’s a good thing though, that you can’t actually see who got put in what Circle or even what the Circles are called. So if you want to put your ex-es in one or even your most hated bosses, guess what? They won’t be able to tell they’ve been clubbed together! 🙂

You can update your status in a very similar fashion to Facebook (on the Stream or the Profile) but you can instantly choose who you want to share it with. You can also tag people by adding a ‘@’ which will then give you a dropdown of names to choose from (a lesser-known but very nice feature of Facebook). And finally, people can comment or +1 (similar to Like) your comment.

The Android app that was released at the same time as the launch is here. The window opens to the following:

  • Stream
  • Huddle (group-messaging within a circle)
  • Photos
  • Profile
  • Circles

The photograph feature is pretty good since the first picture I took and posted to my network showed up within seconds on my computer screen. Within the Stream, I clicked a tick icon. It turned out to be a GPS location tracker. What was really freaky was even though I clicked ‘No’ to enable GPS, it actually gave me a list of options based on addresses close to where I was at that moment! This is the one place I feel Google’s ‘Big Brother is watching you’ syndrome coming on since now, in addition to my email and network details, they also know my location.

It still is early days (or should that be early hours?) for Google Plus. I think the real shift will come if they can provide better add-on features via apps. A lot of Facebook apps are created by third-parties and presumably they’ll get on the Google Plus bandwagon too. What will be interesting is if Google Plus manages to make the app integration easier for the developer as well as the user. Also, I’d like to see them leverage the Android platform to create a good mobilephone-network interface as well as phone versions of the apps. I’ve been a Facebook loyalist but as the owner of Marvin, I’m certainly rooting for the latter.

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.

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