Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Living with less (or no) data on Android

So I promised a little while back that I'd write up a post on some great Android apps that work offline. Of course many apps fall into this category, but these in particular are replacements for apps that otherwise normally rely on a data connection:

  • Aldiko
    I'm guessing most book reader apps will let you read books offline (once you've downloaded them), but this one is so good I haven't tried any others. I love it because it has a lot of public domain books for free, like many of the older classics.

  • CoPilot Live
    (link to USA version 8 )

    Did you know you can use your Android phone for GPS navigation even without a data connection? CoPilot Live is a full-featured GPS app that lets you download map data ahead of time so you can use your phone as a GPS offline. It's not perfect, and nowhere near as good as Google Navigation, but it's well worth the savings on an expensive monthly data plan.

    I'd recommend version 8 over version 9, mostly because the developers are using some pretty crummy bait-and-switch techniques and have split version 9 into "Standard" and "Premium" versions. The catch is the Standard version doesn't actually come with any features one might consider standard in a GPS app/device today, like 3D navigation, text-to-speech, and alternate routing. Let them know (via your wallet) that you think that's lame.

  • ESV Bible
    Many of the Bible apps out there require a data connection, and even when they let you download specific translations for offline use, it may not be the ones you want. If you're looking for a good, accurate, literal translation, the ESV is an excellent choice, and this app will do the trick.

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary
    This is a full-featured English dictionary that works just great offline (except for a minor feature or two, like word-a-day). By full-featured I mean that it even lists example usage, origins, synonyms and antonyms.

  • GoMeals
    If you're watching what you eat, most calorie counting apps require a data connection to look anything up. While GoMeals is a little sluggish, it does contain the entire CalorieKing database, which is quite extensive.
Here are a couple more useful apps that better enable you to reduce your data consumption, particularly useful when you have a limited or pay-as-you-go data plan:

  • Onavo
    This is a really cool app that will let you monitor your data usage by app, and even limit or block specific apps. There are some other great apps out there that let you monitor your data usage, like My Data Manager Free, but this is the only one I've seen so far that lets you go the next step and block data usage for particular apps (at least the only one that doesn't require your phone to be rooted). The developers have stated that it's only free for a limited time, but it just may be worth paying for (provided it's not a recurring fee, which would defeat the purpose).

  • Widgetsoid
    This app lets you create customizable widgets that will let you toggle many settings, including your data connection, allowing you to turn off mobile data altogether when you don't need it.
Note that if you are connected to the internet, some of these apps will use some bandwidth for advertising. But the point is that they will work fine without a connection at all.
Feel free to add your own suggestions to those of us who refuse to allow the wireless providers to rob us of additional hundreds of dollars a year for mobile internet. And feel free to check out my previous post on saving money on your cell phone bill:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 brings with it more Vala

I've talked about Vala a couple times on this blog, and the release of Ubuntu 11.10 tomorrow brings with it another Vala app and more attention to this incredible programming language. The app is a backup client called Déjà Dup. You can read more about it here and see some screenshots here.

While I'm at it, here are some other cool vala apps I've run across:
  • Geary (email app)
    Yet another app by the Yorba team, who has been prominent in promoting Vala and who I've blogged about before. This app seems pretty low-key at the moment, but considering the success of their flagship app, Shotwell, expect to be hearing more about this one in the future.

  • Lingo (dictionary)
    This one's by the elementary team, who I've also mentioned before as they've had a lead role in leading the vala charge. I mentioned in that same post that they would be rewriting their Purple dictionary app in vala, and it looks like Lingo is the result of that rewrite.

  • Lucruri (notes and tasks)

  • Pino (twitter client)

  • Switchboard ("modular desktop settings hub")
    Another one by the elementary team. They place a heavy emphasis on a clean and stylish UI; the screenshot at the top of the page is an early build of Switchboard.
Also, as apparently I predicted, the elementary team is going to be rewriting their Dexter address book app in vala (see link for source).