Speed Camera Alerts with Google Maps

After looking a Waze (which has speed camera alerts) I still wanted to carry on using Google Maps, but wanted to get speed/safety camera alerts. I’d also been looking at TomTom Go for Android, which looks like a good app for road warriors, but also does 50 miles for free each month & has offline maps.. handy for getting out of a tight spot when there’s no 3G signal!

There’s actually another app from TomTom specifically for Speed Camera alerts.. it has an ‘overlay’ mode that puts a floating ‘widget’ over the top of *anything* .. so that might just be your homescreen, but can also be Google Maps.. neat!

Google Play Store link

 

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‘Take Me Home’ shortcut for Google Maps

In the older version of Android I used to have a shortcut on my home sceen which would start up Google Maps in navigation mode & take me home. In the newer versions of Android, the ‘Shortcut’ feature seemed to disappear. I’ve tracked down this feature and this is where to find it;

  • Long-press on a free space on your home screen.. this allows you to add Apps | Widgets | Wallpapers
  • Choose ‘Widgets’
  • Scroll along and find ‘Directions’, then fill out the route information.. and that’s it!

Find the ‘Directions’ widget:

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Enter the route info:

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Done!

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My Android App Essentials

After recently moving from an old Samsung Galaxy S3 to LG G3 (which I thought was a bargain at £189), I reviewed the list of apps I had previously installed & made sure they were still relevant to my new phone. I thought it’d be useful to list out the best ones so here’s what I installed (beyond the usual apps like Twitter, iPlayer);

  • ASTRO – For managing files
  • Avast Mobile Security – I use this on all my PCs so adding it to the phone makes sense
  • Barcode Scanner – Primarily for scanning QR Codes
  • BT SmartTalk – Make VoIP calls using my landline pricing structure
  • BT Wi-fi – Connect free to any BT wifi access points
  • Chrome – Better than the stock browser
  • Evernote – We have this on our family phones for keeping notes.. often taking pictures of letters before binning them
  • FreeOTP – An alternative to Google Authenticator
  • MightyText – Receive and send texts from my desktop PC
  • MX Player – Plays any media you can think of
  • National Rail – Train info
  • Network Scanner – Handy for tracking down the IP of devices on my home network
  • Nights Keeper – Set sound profiles based on day/time.. basically turns the sound off at night UPDATE: Replaced by Timerific
  • Photos – Google photos.. enabling easy backup to the cloud
  • Pixlr – Quick and easy image editing on the move
  • Podkicker – Download and listen to podcasts
  • Rewards – Take short surveys to get small amounts of cash to spend in the Google Play Store
  • SwiftKey Keyboard – Better than most stock keyboards
  • System Tuner – Handy for debugging apps
  • Timeriffic – When I was having variable success with Wifi Timer on my LG G3, I found this worked perfectly and could also replace Nights Keeper
  • tinyCam Monitor – Connect to various IP cameras
  • Twilight – Adjust the blue light emissions on the phone’s screen after it’s dark outside
  • Unified Remote – Helps control my HTPC if I need to use a mouse/keyboard
  • Wifi Analyser – Looks at what wifi access points are in range
  • Wifi Timer – Switch of wifi based on time of day.. i.e. switch it off at night + when I’m at work UPDATE: Replaced by Timerific due to problems getting it to work all the time on the LG G3
  • World Clock – Handy when I’m travelling; has a widget to put on my homescreen

Increasing battery life on a Galaxy S3 with Android 4.3

The latest software update to the Samsung Galaxy S3 upped it to use Android 4.3, but included a whole bunch of Samsung bloatware. From a full charge, it was only taking 20 hours to run down flat, with it feeling slightly warm all the time. There was also a really annoying app that was requesting I sign into Facebook after each restart.

From what I can see, there are a bunch of things that you can disable to improve the battery life & get things back to normal. Here’s what I did;

Go to.. Settings > More > Application Manager > All

Open & disable each of these.. (obviously if you use a particular service, like Dropbox, leave it alone);

Amazon MP3
Backup
Dropbox
DropboxOOBE
Face Unlock
Game Hub
Music (the official Top 40 app)
Music Hub
O2 Space
PageBuddyNotiSvc
S Suggest
S Voice
Samsung Account
Samsung Apps
Samsung Backup Provider
Samsung Browser SyncAdapter
Samsung Calendar SyncAdapter
Samsung Cloud Data Relay
Samsung Cloud Quota
Samsung Contact SyncAdapter
Samsung Link
Samsung Push Service
Samsung SMemo SyncAdapter
Samsung Syncadapters
SamsungAppsUNA2
SNS
Video Hub

Bluetooth audio A2DP receiver BTR006 review

We have a tablet that we put in a headrest mount for the kids to watch on longer journeys. In the past I attached an FM transmitter so that audio could be fed through the car stereo, and I could control the volume from the dash. The only problem with that was local radio stations in other regions stomping over the FM signal I’d pre-set earlier in the journey.

I bought the Bluetooth audio receiver from Justop. It’s the BTR006 model which apparently has some updated chipset. It’s about £15 on Amazon.

This tiny unit draws power from its built in li-on battery (or any USB port) and when fully charged will allow for 8-10 hours of use, and something like 250 hours of standby.

It was easy to pair up with my Samsung Galaxy S3, and Blackberry Playbook.. both of which will be using A2DP. The signal travels 5-10m without problems, but at extremes, the signal gets scrambled by walls/people. For my use, which is for in the car (tablet with the kids in the back) it works a treat.

The only thing I don’t particularly like is the tiny power socket which uses some non-standard plug instead of micro or mini USB. That’s a real pain when I have loads of micro USB-ended adapters kicking around.

Streaming video from the Humax HDR-Fox T2 to Android and Blackberry Playbook

One of the nice features of the Humax HDR-Fox T2 is that it’ll stream your standard definition recordings over your network to DLNA clients. I’ve had a it streaming video onto a PC running XBMC, but wanted something more portable for catching up with some TV whilst I’m getting ready in the morning.

As long as your Android phone is relatively recent, there are a bunch of DLNA clients.. the one I’ve had the best results with is Skifta. Then I’ve got MX Player installed which will handle video playback. The thing I like about MX Player is the gesture control for skipping through the program (swipe across), and adjusting volume (swipe up/down).

I’m running that on a Samsung Galaxy S3, and it works really well. It’s just slightly too small when it’s across the room. It would be better on a tablet, and I have a Blackberry Playbook (from their developer programme).. the only problem has been the lack of a DLNA client.. until just recently, when I found KalemSoft Media Player.

The app is currently being sold at £5, which was a bit more than I’m used to paying.. but the reviews were almost all really good, so I gave it a go. Here’s the app running with my Humax HDR-Fox T2;

As you can see, it’s really fast to browse the folders and start playing back video. It even manages HD if you’re running the auto-decode package, although I had buffering issues when trying to play it back over my network.

KalemSoft do a PC service which will share all your video from there too; I’ve found it works really well.. better than TVersity, and the built-in Windows media sharing stuff, both of which seemed to take ages to index my stuff, and then didn’t even work well after that. Apparently it can be configured to share stuff out over the Internet (password protected too), but I don’t need that feature. It can also stream live TV if you’ve got a TV card.

Titanium Apps and the Blackberry Playbook

In Feburary 2012, Blackberry updated the OS for their 7″ Playbook tablet to v2.0. This introduced compatailbity with Android-based applications whereby developers can simply repackage, code sign, and submit their Android apps into BlackBerry App World. It also means you can take any Android app (that hasn’t gone through this process) and sideload the app yourself.

Since I develop mobile apps for iOS and Android using the Titanium platform, I was interested in how much effort it would be to get my existing apps working on the Playbook. There are plenty of posts on how to take an APK and sign it correctly for App World, but what took me a while to figure out, was which version on Titanium was compatible with the Playbook.

After some experimentation, I’ve found that if you package your app against Titanium SDK 1.7.5, it’ll work nicely on the Playbook. Version 1.8.x won’t work (hmm, maybe it’s V8 vs Rhino.. V8 definitely doesn’t work…). Certain pieces of code may also cause the app to crash (whereas it won’t crash on a proper Android device). The one thing I hit, was passing url:null, into Titanium.UI.createWindow will crash the app, whereas that’s absoutely fine on iOS and Android.

The other small advantage of using the 1.7.5 SDK is that the resulting APK is a lot smaller, although since the current Playbook only has Wifi this is less of an issue than it is on a mobile phone.

Now we have the APK, you just have to go through the app packaging/signing process as detailed elsewhere on the web, or in Blackberry’s official documentation. This new GUI-based tool looks like a good place to start if you don’t like working from the command line.