Archive for the ‘App Reviews’ Category

Removing Ads From the Android Notification Bar

March 4th, 2012 No comments

Recently, my Android phone began to display ads in the notification bar at the top of the phone. These were of the garden-variety “Win a free iPad2” type. Some even claimed to be ads generated by Sprint, our carrier. The people at the Sprint store claimed never to have heard of the problem, and were no help at all.

Turns out there’s an easy solution when you’ve got ads in your notification window. Several apps now include an advertising service called Airpush, which generates these fake notifications. Luckily, there’s also an app which fights back; just download Airpush Detector from the Android market, run it, and get a list of all the apps on your phone which might be serving Airpush ads.

For me, it turned out to be a Google Calendar app that was causing the problem. Airpush Detector found it, and removing it killed the ads.

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MTG Familiar; An Android App For Magic the Gathering

September 6th, 2011 No comments

MTG Familiar IconI should point out from the beginning that I do not, in fact, play Magic: The Gathering. For those of you who do enjoy dead trees over pixels, however, here’s an app to check out.

MTG Familiar provides a variety of tools and utilities for Magic: The Gathering players, packaged into one lightweight, open source app. The core of the app is a master list of MTG cards, which automatically updates from time to time (whether you like it or not), ensuring that you always have the most up-to-date info about the cards in your deck. The card list is stored in a local database, so after a long unzip on your first run, you can search through it at blazing fast speeds.

When you first open the app, you’re greeted with a no-nonsense home screen.

MTG Familiar homescreen

MTG Familiar homescreen

Hitting “Card Search” brings up a full-featured search interface with options to search by all kinds of parameters I know nothing about (but you probably understand, if you’re reading this review).

Search Interface

Search Interface

Performing a search brings up a list of all cards matching your criteria. Clicking on a card name gives you a description and some other useful info.

Info about a card

Info about a card

Here is where the app really shines, text formatting aside. Hit the Menu key, and you get a bunch of useful options. Selecting “Card Image”, for example,  grabs and displays an image of the card.

Author Gelakinetic was kind enough to make this an optional function, rather than including the image with the card info by default. This saves you bandwidth if you’re on one of those infernal capped-data plans, and ensures that the text-only info loads extra fast (since it’s all you’ll need 99% of the time).

Full card images

Full card images

Another option is “Card Price”, which loads up a browser and gives you live info on how much the card costs.

Live MTG card prices

Finally, hitting “Legality” gets you info about where you can play the card.

Card legality info

Card legality info

In addition to the card-related info, the app includes several useful Magic: The Gathering related utilities. These include a life counter:

Life counter

Life counter

And a random number generator which simulates rolling dies of various sided-ness.

Random number generator

Random number generator

MTG Familiar already provides a lot of great functionality, but the app is only in its infancy. The good news, again, is that it’s open source, so if it’s missing something you’d like to see, you can dive right in and tweak it. Full access to the source is available at Google Code:

Hate the white-on-black aesthetic? Have mad Java-spider-writing skills and want to find a way to integrate the pricing data directly into the card info screen (my first thought, personally)? Want to integrate streaming video of matches (are they called that?) directly into the app? Grab the code and play around!

For the non developer types, MTG Familar is not yet available in the Android market, but you can grab an APK here: and install it yourself. It’s already a very useful app, and with the conspicuous overlaps between the MTG and Open Source communities, my guess is that it will only get better.

UPDATE: MTG Familiar is now available in the Android market

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Voice Recording on Android: Recordroid Dictaphone

July 25th, 2011 No comments


Recording sound seems like the sort of thing that everybody would have to do at some point, so it’s surprising that Android doesn’t come with a really great voice recorder built-in. Luckily Recordroid Dictaphone provides an elegant and neat-looking solution to the problem.

Recordroid takes the metaphor of the 1980s tape recorder to the extreme; when you first open the app you have to press on a virtual “tape deck” in order to “insert a new tape” before you can start doing anything. Annoying? Yes! Kind of neat at the same time? Also yes!

After the initial graphical silliness, Recordroid is an amazingly simple and intuitive app to use. The settings menu gives you access to detailed settings for audio quality (again, annoyingly expressed as “tape capacity”), geocoding, file formats, and automatic backup settings.

Hitting record allows you to start speaking into your Android’s microphone, creating a recording. When you’re finished, you enter a title for the recording, which becomes the filename for the Wav or 3GP file which the app creates on your phone’s SD card.

Hitting play gives you access to all of your prior recordings, which you can play back, send via e-mail, or see on a map. If you have a lot of recordings, there is also a search function which allows you to locate the one you’re looking for.

Recording quality is pretty good, and seems to be limited only by the hardware capabilities of the Android phone itself. The ability to e-mail recordings is a great feature, and makes it easy to store things in your e-mail so you can search for them later.

The app doesn’t do MP3 recording, which would be nice. Another annoying problem with Recordroid Dictaphone is the fact that it’s only available as a free light version in the Android app store. Apparently, you can buy the app for four dollars from a few other app stores, but none of these are especially easy to register for. The light version limits you to shorter recordings, but otherwise it’s fully featured; for the price, I’d say grab it and try it out. You’ll feel like it’s 1983 all over again!

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Mobile Blogging On the G1

February 3rd, 2009 No comments

I’m currently writing this on my G1, while waiting at a Jiffy Lube for my headlight to be fixed. Since this blog runs on WordPress, I decided to test one of two WordPress apps available from the Android Market.

If you’re reading this post, that bodes well for wpToGo, an app that promises to add posts to any WordPress blog which has xmlRpc enabled.

The app seems relatively straightforward–there’s a title line, a body line, and some basic formatting options (Bold, Italic, linked, and quoted). For some reason, you have to type text and then select it in order to apply formatting, which is somewhat iritating.

Other options, too, are sparse–there’s a place to add pictures, and a dropdown which loads categories from the blog.

Overall, though, the program seems quite usable, if a bit utilitarian. Again, assuming you’re reading this…

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