Category Archives: mobile

sync files to your phone with bittorrent sync

Triple Sync

Syncing files with a phone is sometimes a cumbersome and tricky task. I blogged about a few solutions before like this one using FTP, but recently I found another gem.
Bittorrent Sync turns out is awesome to sync large amounts of files over WIFI to and from a mobile device without a lot of effort.

So what is it? Bittorrent Sync is, as you probably guessed, a product from the Bittorrent lads. You can use it to synchronize folders between machines in a distributed, non-centralized way. So you could think of it as Dropbox without having to use the central cloud server. There are
clients for all sorts of operating systems like Windows, Android, Mac and Linux.
The only “downside” here is that you need to have another machine online before the syncing happens as there is no central server that keeps a copy of your files in the cloud. You can also see this as an advantage if you don’t want copies to end up on third-party servers.

So to sync from your main machine to a mobile device, this works perfectly.

Basically you do the following to set up file syncing between your PC and your phone:

  • Install the BTSync application on your PC.
  • Install the BTSync app on your (android) phone.
  • Setup a sync folder on your PC.
  • Scan the QR barcode for this folder from your PC screen with your phone from the app to set up the sync folder on your phone.
  • Sit back and watch the magic happen.

Depending on your settings you can use this to sync in both directions, set up multiple sync-folders, sync with multiple machines etc.

It’s awesome, it’s free and it works like a charm.
I love it.

Addendum: if you upgrade from an older version to v2 of Sync your old sync folders might break. I ended up uninstalling and reinstalling Sync on my PC & phone + recreate the sync folders to have it all work flawlessly again.

Photo by Grant Hutchinson, cc-licensed.

mighty handy android apps

Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - not again

Well look at that. It’s been since 2010 that I actually reviewed the list of Android apps I often use. Can’t have that now can we? What awesome and fresh new apps would I be using these days? Which ones have I ditched for more shiny or slick ones? Let’s see!

  1. The stock browser. Yes. I’m still using it. The other ones, still too bulky imo and don’t seem to be adding any features I can’t live without.
  2. The stock energy manager had to go for a better one I’m afraid. So now I’m sporting Free Power Widget on my homescreen which also gives me access to Bluetooth & mobile data settings and has customizable colours. Ooh, pretty indeed.
  3. Catch Notes is still there. Kicking note-taking buttocks.
  4. FBReader also still there. Best eReader out there & open source.
  5. Advanced Task Killer Free has gone. The stock one is good enough really.
  6. Tweetdeck. You betcha. Best Twitter app for the phone. Ever. Love the tabs. The tabs make all the difference for me. Slide, slide, slide and you’ve seen everything you want. Awesome. From Twitter Inc nowadays. Makes sense.
  7. Zeam Launcher has now replaced the stock launcher because minimalistic goodness and features. It adds a nice customizable toolbar, double-tab multi-screen overview and the easiest way to uninstall apps ever. You just drop them from the app list onto the trashcan ét voila, you can uninstall that bugger without using the market or “Play” thing, nor having to go through the slow loading and tedious system applications menus.
  8. LittlePhoto is the only phone app besides the stock on I’ve kept around. It’s minimal but has lots of nice filters which you can combine in an endless number of ways until you have the perfect image… all messed up. Not locked into any online photo sharing thing either, so you can just save locally and share to whatever you like.
  9. iPaper is a must if you are already using instapaper.
  10. As photo viewer I’m using QuickPic now. Why? Because the stock one just isn’t fancy enough. It also has more features, but still, sometimes you just want things to look pretty dammit.
  11. Dropbox is worth mentioning too. If you don’t know about it, it’s for syncing your files in the cloud to all your devices, so in this case also your Android phone. Lately they’ve done a great job on the Android app, making it a breeze to upload photo’s (automatically even, which is a bit spooky) or other files to your global cloudy storage space. Beats hooking up that darn USB cable to your PC for sure.
  12. An old version of Acrobat Reader for PDF’s, because the new one is just plain worthless on Android imo. Sorry guys.

Photo by Adam Foster | Codefor, cc-licensed.

catch.com makes a darn good bookmarking service

clouds

Still looking for a good bookmarking service after the Delicious takeover by Avos with their fishy policy changes? And the Trunkly takeover by Avos? With equally fishy policy changes? Cause it’s the same company?

So was I.

I didn’t care for the social bit too much or whatever other fuss services throw in these days when it comes to bookmarking. I just wanted to be able to easily save links, tag and search them. Anywhere.  Yeah, not installing software to sync it over different browsers and platforms and stuff, just simple good old-fashioned web-based goodness which makes sure you can access it from anywhere, even from  your bleeding edge smart phone, at work, at home, at a friends place. I think they call that “in the cloud” these days.

As it turns out I’m already using something called Catch Notes to (wait for it…) catch quick notes on my phone, and keep them synced with their cloud service. Yeah. Cloud Service. How hip is that!?
Anyway, they added something new a while ago called streams, which basically lets you group related stuff together. Stuff like links for example.

Tadaaaa!!

Indeed. I simply created a “Links” stream (I’m so original), dump interesting sites and pages in there either manually, or by using the Firefox add-on which auto-includes the link with your selected text. Really handy if you hate the tedious operation of copy-pasting and then *gasp* typing some description to go with it. Go figure.
The data is synched with my phone thanks to the Android app, so I also have my links handy there. Even better. I can add bookmarks from my phone using the Share function common to most apps, and read them later on my PC.

Searching? Tagging?
Yep. Can do all that. So it’s pretty damn sweet innit?

Photo by AndyFitz, cc-licensed.

making your blog go mobile

Mobile! It’s the latest and greatest of the buzzes isn’t it? But it’s damn right too, because more and more people are starting to use their mobile devices to reach out into the fabulous and marvellous inter-webs to do all sorts of productive things like using twitter, visiting reddit, tumbler and 4chan or read interesting articles on websites and blogs (probably being posted in their twitter stream) about kittens.

So let it be known that in the year 2010 A.D. you better bloody well have a mobile version of your website online or you’re going to miss out. Well, maybe not miss out, but you won’t be one of the cool kids (see photo) for sure! So how do you join the club of the hip and mobile-ready web sites?

Lot’s and lot’s of programming, l33t CSS skills and plenty of testing on all sorts of devices will get you there.

Or if you’re running a WordPress blog, you can also check out these two plugins which basically turn your old fashion 2009 blog into a futuristic mobile-touch-screen-enabled piece of awesomeness!

  • WpTouch: turns your blog into it’s touch-friendly html self and allows people with iPhones and Android devices (among others) to easily tap and click around with their greasy thumbs.
  • WordPress Mobile Edition: the name sort of gives it away doesn’t it? This baby enables those poor sobs who still have and oldskool smartphone without a touch-screen to use your site as well.

You can run them both to make sure you aren’t missing a single mobile hit on your site.
Very 2010.
Very hip.

Photo by Kid Paparazzi, cc-licensed.

will windows phone 7 cut it?

867-5309

A few weeks ago I was in the lion’s den at Schiphol watching a presentation of the new to come Microsoft Windows Phone 7. It was supposed to be Windows Phone development thing, but it turned out to be more of a marketing rant than a geeky app development preview. Bummer.

But hey, since we where there, we might as well get a glance of that sexy (or so they want us to believe) new phone the MS guys came up with right? Well, apparently the phone’s hardware is going to be almost completely fixed. No matter what brand you’re getting the GPU, CPU, amount of RAM, OLED display (including resolution) and Windows buttons (like the Android buttons) are fixed. If it doesn’t that the specs set my MS, it’s not going to be a WinPhone. Manufactures do get to play with the design, a potential hardware keyboard and the on board camera which has to be at least 5 mega pixels. Apparently that’s what the manufacturers want. When it comes to competing it’ll be all about making a pretty phone then I guess.

That the hardware is fixed also makes it easier to to maintain the OS and the device drivers. Both of these will be in the hands of the Redmond lads which is interesting. Microsoft will be the one to blame when the phone doesn’t work as expected and not Motorola, HTC, Samsung or whoever built the damn thing. This could be a good thing for quality and could avoid issues like on Android phones where one brand of phone gets it’s OS updates a lot faster than the other.

When it comes to the OS features it’s what you expect and know of the competing phones. It has a native IE, searches using Bing and integrates as expected with a bunch of online Microsoft services like Live/Hotmail, XBox Live (if available in your country) and the Zune for music (if available in your country). This sort of makes me think about iTunes lock-in on the iPhone. It was to be expected MS wasn’t going to shy away from some vendor lock-in mechanism’s here and there right. This phone is going to integrate nicely with your Windows Media Player and your Windows 7 or Vista OS of course. Oh yeah and they support Flash. They made sure that was clear.

So what about apps? Well, they are mainly taking the iPhone route there. There’s going to be an app-store and they are going to approve every app published on it. All under the guise of quality assurance they are training a bunch of developers in India to routinely approve each submitted app before it gets unleashed on their phones. In fact, they are going to sign each app with a Microsoft certificate after it’s approved. This means that as an app developer you have to submit your source code as well. Creepy. Releasing apps through the Marketplace  isn’t going to be cheap either. 99$ a year. You then get 5 apps “free” and for each additional app you have to pay an extra 20$. So watch out how you version those apps I’d say. 99$ is the same cost as for access to the the iPhone app store. Google’s Android store is cheaper with only a 25$ to pay.

Developing the apps is done with Visual Studio. You can use the freely downloadable (but crippled) Visual Studio Express editions to develop a WP7 (WordPress 7? No! Windows Phone 7!) app using C# (or any other .NET language I suppose) and a WPF-like XAML for the user interface. For developers working in .NET this will make app development a breeze using their trusty and known toolkit. Integration with a bunch of online Microsoft services to make your apps location aware, do searches using Bing and use apps in the Azure cloud are also available. Interesting to see if these idea’s are going to give this phone the edge it’ll need to drag people away from their Android devices and iPhones.

Personally I’m hooked on Android. Both WP7 and iPhone reek of vendor lock-in to me which is enough to not even consider them. DRM’d Zune downloads and iTunes requirements annoy me, but since not everyone cares about these issues I’m sure there will be adopters for this as well.

If hipsters go for Apple phones and geeks go for Android phones, will mom and pop go for the Windows phones?

Photo by bitzcelt, cc-licensed.

mobile internet in belgium, who's the cheapest?

P1010714

Note for international readers: this post concerns data limits for Belgian mobile providers making this probably not very interesting if you don’t live in this small but lovely country. You are however free to brag in the comments on how cheap your data traffic is, as that will probably be the case.

Updated 28-8-2010 due to new Base surf-5 changes.

I’ve heard good things about Mobile Vikings lately. That they offer cheap data access for your smartphone for example. And they have a cool sounding name. I’m with the lads from Base myself and quite pleased with their service and pricing so far. But since the Mobile Vikings are actually using the Base network, I thought it was worth checking out who of the two is the cheapest and if it would be worth switching.

Comparing cellphone providers is always a bitch. So I’m keeping it simple here. I’m only looking at the costs for data traffic. Costs for text messages and phone calls are simply not included. If you feel like switching you’ll have to look into that as well to see if it’s still a good thing for your personal situation. For the iPad or netbooks some providers have specific formats which are also excluded.

There are basically two type of accounts:

  • The so-called “top-up account“, where you pay up front and get a fixed volume of bandwidth to spend. If all your megabytes are used up you fall back to a basic (and usually expensive) rate. The volume only lasts a month after which not spent but paid for megabytes are lost. Yes, they are clever like that.
  • The monthly fee is where you pay a fixed amount every month (hence the word “monthly”) and get a certain volume to spend on data. If you spend more, you are charged for the extra traffic on a fixed rate. This rate is usually more interesting than with the top-up accounts. Next month you start fresh again. Any bandwidth not spend is of course lost. Yes, they are also clever like that.

That roughly counts for most providers, but details may vary.

Now what did I compare?
What I wanted to know is: how much would I pay with each provider if I spend X megabyte a month.

So I slapped that in a grid calculating the price for each combination of volume in MB with each formula, going from 1 to 2500 MB.  Then I added some colours to make it a bit easier to spot where you get more surfing for your buck.

  • The cheapest ones shop up in green.
  • White is OK. It’s in between the cheap and expensive.
  • In orange you see numbers light up that are twice as high or bigger than the cheapest calculation for that volume. You have the right to feel screwed if you’re paying that much.

belgium mobile data costs

(Click for a bigger view, see links further to download the spreadsheet.)

What does this pretty coloured table show us?

  • What I see is that Mobile Vikings is indeed cheaper if you are a big spender (over 500 MB). Mobistar Max does well there too for volumes over 1 GB.
  • If you’re surfing at no more than 10 50 MB a month, Base is the winner. That however is extremely low for  a smartphone I’ve noticed. This is only good for very occasional use. Good for the occasional surf session.
  • Mobistar is the best below 150 MB apparently, with Telenet and Base as a close second.
  • You can also see that some formulas turn out crazy expensive at some point, so it’s better to steer away from those if you’re thinking about doing some serious surfing.
  • There is no clear winner. Depending on the volume, you can end up with the best or the worst.
  • Proximus is not a winner. Lot’s of orange over there.
  • One thing I see is that’s a good thing to stick to free WiFi, as these rates aren’t cheap at all.

Take a look for yourself to see what is the best option for you depending on your monthly spending rate.
You can take a more detailed look with this PDF, the original Open Office spreadsheet or this converted online Google Docs spreadsheet. Colour coding is missing there, as that doesn’t seem to convert.

Some notes on the spreadsheet:

  • The Mobile Vikings Jumbo pack isn’t in the table as it’s not interesting when looking at data only.
  • For the top-up account I assumed that as soon as the volume is spent, it’s topped up again using the same fee as before. So in this scenario you never pay the more expensive base rates charged per megabyte.
  • The lowest value is checked with a margin of 0.1 cent. That way Proximus doesn’t end up being the cheapest with their sneaky x,99 rates just by a single cent.
  • Pricing info came from the Base, Mobile Vikings, Telenet, Mobistar and Proximus websites of course.

Photo by svet, cc-licensed.

motorola milestone europe android 2.1 update

milestone

I got myself a totally bad-ass Motorola Milestone Android phone a while ago. I was excited about it cause it looks so damn awesome with the black shiny display and all, and it’s got frigging Android on it so it rocks with all the apps and geekness it offers. After a while however I noticed some things are kinda buggy on it too and I started looking for some answers online.

At first I wanted to figure out if I was having a broken phone (hardware issue) which I could simply return or if it was the OS/software which was the problem. After a long search online finding lots of people with the same issues on Motorola Droid & Milestone phones (and also on HTC actually) it turns out I was plagued by some Android 2.1 problems. The good thing is Motorola is currently sending out updates for these problems for Milestone mobiles all over, including Europe. The annoying thing is that it’s taking them a while and it’s unclear which countries will be next in line. First off, here’s the bugs that are to be fixed in that update. If you’re having any of these issues, that patch should fix it:

  • Improved Stability Prevents the phone from random power cycling (turning off and on), and minimizes force closes in certain applications.
  • Alarm Improvements Resolves issues with alarm functionality.
  • Music Player Functionality
  • Eliminates accidental starting of music.
  • Audio Quality Enhancements Eliminates instances of choppy audio experienced by some users.
  • PIN Lock Improvements Allows users more flexibility in setting the PIN Lock timer when using Exchange email.
  • Proximity Sensor Enhancement
  • Provides more accurate proximity sensing during phone calls.
  • Flight Mode Enhancement
  • Ensures phone service is restored after leaving air-plane mode.
  • “My Location” Improvements
  • Resolves the issue of Google Maps failing to find “My Location” when “Use Wireless Network” is enabled without using GPS.

Quit something isn’t it? Personally I find the random reboots the most annoying, the failing clock a perfect excuse for turning up late at work and the accidental start of music the best way to scare the crap out of your cat (or yourself when you’re checking your mail in the middle of the night).

The best place to track info on where the update will be launched next for Europe is at the Motorola Europe Facebook account apparently. I’ve looked all over for this kind of info, including various twitter accounts (@motomobile, @motodev), their own owner support forums (unchecked by Motorola it seems) and even direct emails to the guys where I got the phone from. That last one was pretty crazy as they contacted Motorola UK which claimed to not even know about the restart issues which I described in quite  some detail.

For the world-wide upgrade schedule + the schedule for other mobiles like the Backflip, Dext and Quench you can look here, although it doesn’t contain a lot of details.