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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Need to Squirrel Away a Contact's Info in your Droid Quickly and Easily?

Like to Collect Business Cards Like I Do?

Wouldn't it be just great if everyone had electronic business cards you can simply feed into your phone?  Actually, smartphones do have those, but usually business men simply carry business cards.  How low tech, right?  Well, just turn that paper copy into an contact entry in your Android based smartphone!

I downloaded and wound-up purchasing "CamCard (Western)" (since I'm not an Asian).  I've also seen it called "CamCard - BCR (Western)". The BCR stands for Business Card Reader.

It is an awesome app because it uses character recognition technology (aka: OCR) to grab all the info from a business card.  You can then save the card and all the info into your contacts.  It works well and requires minimal corrections (usually any errors are the cause of fancy fonts & italics) and it trims the card down nicely if you put it on a high contrast surface and corrects perspective and all, and then saves the image and all the contact info.  It even will straighten out the card edges.  It really works great with my DroidX.

This was a Chinese developed app and only cost $6.99.  If that's too heavy duty for ya, there is a free version that scans in 8 cards initially and then will allow 2 more business card scans per week.  I do assure you that the app is all in good English and is easy to read (as if dome by an Englishman), though.  And of course, there is a Chinese & Eastern version.

There are actually a few versions...

And of course, you can find it in the Android market place.

You do realize that we have it made in the Android market because professional applications are still reasonable, right?  This is truly a good buy and well worth the price.  It has saved me considerable time staying connected and allows me to show-off my DroidX and make others drool.  ;)

I'll be checking out their document scanner, "CamScanner" as well, soon.  

See Ya!

What's the Very Best Password Safe?

The best Password Safe?

I finally have entered all of my passwords into my DroidX. It took a long time to find just the right application, and it was quite an adventure, trying so many different apps along the way. But I am certain that I finally settled on the very best of them all... Kuff's "Password Safe Pro". I was trying out all the free versions and this one definitely was the best. I bought the license key (3 euro) because it was so good and because I got tired of seeing the ads very quickly. ;)

There is also a lite version (Password Safe Lite) without network support for 1 euro which doesn't show ads and has no network back-up or sync features (because of the lack of network connectivity feature in this one). It will, however, back up to the SDCard . I wound-up getting both, but that's because I was a bit foolish and didn't find the license for the pro version right away, mistaking the lite version for the license. I wrote the developer and heard back from right away, he's going to refund the money I spent on the lite version for my Droid and we will definitely get another lite version for Maria. She'll then have one and she doesn't need the networking backup/sync features (she or I can manually back it up from her SDCard to her computer, anyway).

I am very happy with this software package. It acts like an app should.

Both versions are very secure and use 128bit AES encryption by default with a 256bit AES encryption option setting.

You can setup the item data fields the way you want, organize them the way you want. Your control over your data is total. You can even setup templates for items, though I have yet to experiment with that.

Nothing else comes close to these Password Safe apps. And you can sync the full version (the one w/backup/restore/sync networking capabilities) with your PC using DropBox, too! The Windows version of the program is free (until the end of this month, anyway). And there is a WiFi backup/restore/sync version available, now. My license is for a lifetime. I am just starting to test the WiFI capabilities, that's a new feature.

Cool program. Works well, too. Very reliable. No complaints (and the few I had were addressed by reading the docs). You can have all sorts of nested folders so that you get everything organized just right. And there are all sorts of skins you can use on it, as well. Even more skins in the Windows version. It was developed by a bloke in the UK.

I honestly am glad I waited to get such a great tandem act for a Password Safe with Kuff's. I should also mention that it's full of features that I will probably never use, but are important to such devices, such as an optional wipe feature that will kick-in upon so many failed login attempts. A remote wipe feature, incase of phone theft. These are important matters of security for the secure obsessed. And there are other security features such as a configurable "shake to show" option, as well.

I will say this, I had a little trouble finding the license key because I kept searching for terms using "kuff's" (with the apostrophe) and eventually found it just searching for "kuffs". So be sure to search for kuffs to see the 2 versions of Password Safe and the license key for the full featured version. It's always the little things that hurt us the most. LOL.

There are some tiny UI issues that I had which were all addressed in the new update by the developer before I could even shoot off an email to him... this guy is sharp!

Thanks, DAz!

Amendum: DAz is the developer and his responses have all been immediate. The purchase of Password Safe Lite was refunded to my credit card within minutes of the request. I am extremely impressed by his professionalism and immediate service to accomodate all my needs. You're just not going to find a better Password App anywhere, and possibly not a more well made app, either.

Oh, I should mention that the Windows version is pretty slick. I'm sure he'll start charging for that one soon, so get it (the Pro version for the android and the Windows version for free) before the end of the month while the Windows version is still free with the Pro license (only 3 euro for both, that's great!).

Links: - for Kuff's Password Safe - for Drop Box file sharing & sync

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Finally, I have an Android!

After all kinds of anticipation for getting myself an Android smartphone, my wife Maria finally helped me out this past Christmas and bought me a Droid X! ;)

Of course, I anticipated getting one ever since the original Droid was announced by Verizon. It's why I named this blog "Widget Droid" and grabbed the domain name (which I hope Google will allow me to mount as the home address for this blog, eventually, since they allow that with Google "Sites").

Anyways, I have had all kinds of fun with it since Maria bought us each one the week before Christmas. I've discovered a great deal of really neat stuff. I've also discovered a whole bunch of "What were they thinking?" type of crap.

I am planning on using this blog to both celebrate the android platform, as well as criticize it for its transgressions. I am hoping the result will be that we are able to make the platform better.

There are some real idiotic things that developers are doing that need to be addressed, as well. And I understand why they happen, they happen because developers are way too busy making their stuff better and miss how others use their devices or how their applications work in the field by real users.

As an example, I think that it is criminal what most applications are doing... they think that they have to be running all of the dang time and therefore even if I force quit ("force stop") an application, it just relaunches itself, immediately. There are too many applications that are doing this.

It is a pathetic excuse for a software developer to assume that any user wants any application running all the time, no matter how vital they think it is. Unless the developer adds a setting for us to configure the app to allow it to run all the time, it should not. Not ever, no matter how important it is.


There is 16GB for apps on a stock DroidX SDCard and 6GB storage internally. My phone usually only shows around 300 MB of usable memory, and the system is usually using near half of that. After I installed all sorts of neat stuff, I had to go through and uninstall anything that wouldn't behave correctly (anything that would relaunch after a force quit). That was a whole heckuva lot of stuff! I couldn't believe how many great programs were acting like crap, running all the time, slowing down the system, even though they were never needed unless I had just launched them. Some I had never launched, or barely ever used. Some I wanted to, but were persistent memory hogs. Hey guys, there is a very limited amount of RAM here. Get real.

The following are a few examples of apps that should NOT run all the time, and why:
  1. The TV Guide does NOT have to run all of the time, TV Guide! I only need it running when I access it, not 24 hours a day. How many times do you think I don't know what to watch? Even if I did watch a lot of TV, say a couple of hours a day,I would probably be watching my favorite shows as scheduled and would only need to reference the TV Guide once every other day. So why does it stay in memory once I am done with it? Furthermore, why does it relaunch after I have force quit the app? Don't get me wrong, I like the app, Digital TV compression makes it impossible to flip through the channels quickly now (what is up with that, Television industry? That just plain Sucks!). So I love having the TV Guide available through the phone, it's a necessity. But I am now only installing it each and every time I need it, and uninstalling it when I am done. And I do consider myself a videot (a slang term I like to use for videophiles or "addicts of the boob-tube"). C'MON, MAN! Really? Yeah, RIGHT... my wrinkled butt that's a well behaved app.
  2. Twitter. I suppose if you are an extremely active telemarketer spamming all the social networks, you would want Twitter to run all the time. But Twitter was over commercialized from the start. Yes, I would love to have the app on my phone if it would just quit when I am done. Who in his/her right mind wants Twitter running when they aren't using the phone, when they are in a different application, when they are using the phone or when they are listening to music? It just doesn't take that long to load and we all know that Twitter's servers are well over-burdened in the first place. It is a huge app that does nothing good for me when I'm not using it, and it still relaunches itself after a force quit? Why? Because Twitter thinks we are all need to be spammers instead of real people with real lives. C'MON, MAN! Really? Yeah, RIGHT... my wrinkled butt that's good.
  3. Yahoo Mail. Sure, many people want such email programs working all the time, informing them of new messages, keeping them apprised. But the point is, I have always used GMail since Yahoo betrayed my trust and allowed spammers to swamp my inbox full of scams and advertisements; most of the ads being for pornography. I signed-up with Yahoo way back in maybe 1995 when I was young and dumb and didn't understand anything about internet security and all the spammers grabbed my email address from the usenet groups I enjoyed frequenting. Since then, I am deluged with spam. The username itself is from when I was less mature and they don't allow me to change it without wiping my account. But my point is that although I do want to check it from time to time, I don't want to be annoyed with all the constant email updates because it is almost all spam. Or if I used that address for work, I would only want to access it during times when I am working, at my willingness to do so. Being updated constantly is just adding all sorts of noise to my world, even if I have notifications silenced. It still updates. We have to be aware that technology is often a distraction and behave appropriately. You would think that Yahoo would understand this? No, they have to be the distraction that I wind-up shunning? C'MON, MAN! Really? Yeah, RIGHT. This is irresponsible behavior by a tech giant that should know better. It should want my attention, not continue to push me away.
  4. Quickoffice is a free app that consumes well over 5MB of my memory even though I've never used it beyond checking it out after installing. It refuses to quit and I am anxious to find a replacement. Once uninstalled how useful will it be to me? Absolutely useless and the developer will lose market share in a hotly contested space for word processing and document management. C'MON, MAN! Really? Yeah, RIGHT. There are no excuses!
Those are just the ones off the top of head because I had just uninstalled them. They are among at least 2 dozen other android 2 applications that just don't cut the mustard. Heck, they fall so short that I personally perceive them as crap applications.

Not every application acts persistent enough to run all the time like this and there are responsible applications out there, thanks to alert & considerate developers. But I only have one example at the moment:
  1. Kruff's Password Safe & Password Safe Lite. These are the best two password safes on the android market. Of course, this is also a feature of it's security. But once you back out from the home screen of the program, it will ask you to click again to assure that you want to exit the application. When it quits, it will release its memory, as almost every single application should. Both of these programs are fine examples of how a Droid app should behave. You can press the home key to get to another app to look something up, and as long as you don't take longer than configured in the settings, once you return and renter the proper password you will arive exactly where you left off in that app. As it should be.
Unfortunately, there aren't many examples of programs that are so well behaved. I cannot figure out why...
  1. UPS Mobile works well, once you back out of it, it asks you if you really want to exit. Still, upon exiting, it remains resident in memory. Luckily, a Task Killer or a Force Quit works well on it.
  2. The AIM & ICQ messengers almost get it right. Obviously, we want our "smart" phones to "multitask" so that we can get to other apps in a hurry and get back to what we were doing before, like chatting with a friend and grabbing a URL for him from somewhere, and then pasting it into a chat. So, upon backing out of the app, the app remains live (unless force quit), so that such things can be accomplished. But in the menu there is an option to "Sign Out". Upon signing out and backing out of the app, these apps both still remain in memory. At least they will stay shut down after force quitting them or using an App Killer, and they won't relaunch again thereafter, or upon a boot-up.
  3. The Silver Edit code editor has the option to Exit in the menu, or it will ask if you want to exit when you hit the back key. Remember that you can leave the app while leaving it running when you hit the Home key, as any android app should do. So why doesn't the menu's Exit selection release the app from memory? Why doesn't the Back key exit and release the program from memory when you are sitting at its home page, especially when the Home key leaves the application to go to the home screen while leaving it in memory? Has Google missed something? I think so. These are UI issues and unfortunately, Google's android is plagued with many such goofs.
  4. When you exit SBMX (Autodesk's SketchBook Mobile eXpress) you simply press the back key and the app asks you if you want to exit, exit & save your work, or cancel the act altogether. That's great, but it still remains in memory.
It's obvious that we have to do some inconvenient things in the name of what, laziness in development? We either have to force quit nearly every app after using it, reboot our phone once in a while (and I suggest that we might have to do that more than the once-a-day that Google recommends we have to do it, if we are avid android users), or keep an "App Killer" or "Task Killer" running in the background and poke it often (after configuring it to allow the few programs we need to run in the background to do so).

I am sure that Google will defend its nonsensible UI steadfastly, as it is not like them to make mistakes in design, and this is especially embarassing in terms of how a convenient and usable UI should present itself. Still, the problem is not completely in the navigation. It is in the lack of vision to not allow applications to terminate normally. And this is both the fault of the platform and the application developer him or herself.

If Google has gone Microsoft, I imagine that Google's answer may just be to throw more active memory at the problem and ship new versions with more RAM, but that doesn't address the real problem which is still a complete and utter design flaw.

When should an app relaunch upon force-quit?

There are very few applications that should run all the time. The bulk of these came on your phone as a part of the android system. Obviously, there is the Android OS and its required system files. But unless you are a developer for the OS itself, there are very, very few third party applications that should always run. That list is very short...
  1. Dialer App
  2. Contacts App
  3. Calendar
  4. Alarm
  5. Blacklist
  6. Caller ID
  7. Maps
  8. Weather
  9. (An active) Live Wallpaper
  10. App/Task Killer
  11. Antivirus
  12. Antispam
  13. Sync Service
  14. Network Connection Manager
  15. Updater
  16. Input Devices/Gizmo Apps
  17. Home/Skin/Folder/App/Icon Managers/Organizers
  18. Widgets
Every other application in the android app world should ALWAYS include an option in the settings to remain persistent in memory as an option and NEVER, EVER continue running after a force quit unless it is a vital system level task that is required to run in the backround. Even the stock Google android Calculator doesn't quit after backing out of the application, but at least it doesn't relaunch upon a force quit or boot-up. No application developer should EVER make the assumption that his/her program is vital to the operation of a smart phone unless they can handily prove that would be the case for absolutely everyone who installs it and no one would ever uninstall that app because it remained persistent in memory. Not ever.

Oh, and one more thing... no application should ever run in memory fresh after installing until the user has accessed it at least one time.

C'MON Google! C'MON App Developer Man! Get real.