Tag Archives: android

Kichibichiya

It’s been just a day since Kichibichiya was released. Here are some thoughts on the new app.

For those who heard the name for the first time, Kichibichiya is a Twitter client for Android written by the Sri Lankan developer Pahan. Kichi-bichi is Sinhala for the chirping of birds; hence the name. It has extracted all the goodness of the open-source client Twidere and added loads of useful features into it. The chief motivation for the app has been coming up with a Twiiter client with seamless Sinhala unicode support.

I was skeptic at first. Pahan was posting screenshots of his not-yet-released prototype since a few weeks and they mostly included tweets with Sinhala rendered beautifully. But would you use a Twitter app if all it did right was rendering a language properly? Well, I wouldn’t.

Timeline

Timeline

Sinhala tweets

Sinhala tweets

The first impression I got after installing Kichibichiya was, “Oh man, this is slick”. And it indeed is. Smooth scrolling between timelines, holo theme and less messy interface. Most common actions a regular tweep would need are easily accessible. Username auto-completion can improve, though. The customizability is impressive. Custom tabs, day and night themes, custom notifications, multiple accounts, ability to set DNS servers, host mapping, hardware acceleration are only a few of them. You can even set your own retweet format.

My favorite feature is the content filter. Kichibichiya lets you mute users (eg: @NisansaDdS), keywords (eg: changumee) and sources (eg: foursqure) hassle-free. Not every good client out there supports tweet filtering well, but Kichibichiya does it like a boss. It feels good when the timeline is not cluttered with foursquare and getglue tweets anymore.

Apparently there’s support for extensions as well. Not quite sure if it would allow third-party extensions or not, but it’s good to know that the app is extensible.

Composing tweets

Composing tweets

Some of the settings

Some of the settings

Kichibichiya is awesome. I say awesome and I mean it. Not saying that it’s the best Twitter client out there. It’s hard to beat powerful clients like Falcon Pro, but then, Kichibichiya boasts of several features the former doesn’t offer. Of course, it was just launched. You’d find an obscure bug now and then. Some setting might not work perfectly. But let’s hope the developer keeps up with the good work and continue to come up with updates. And more cool features. This is one app with great potential.

On Galaxy Note II

The Note started as a controversy, but in the end, it was a resounding success. Contrary to many initial reactions, people actually liked the big screen. More than 10 million were sold. I’ve been using the Note for over 8 months and was constantly asking myself, is it even possible to come up with a better phone? Turns out, it is. Welcome the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

Yes, it is!

Thanks to It’s About Gadgets by Etisalat, I got the chance to use the new monster for a week. And, ugh, I forgot to take any photos or screenshots, so all the photos in the posts will be stolen ones from the interwebs.

The initial reaction when I got the Note 2? This guy is fast! Of course, it goes without saying that Note 2 is one of the fastest phones currently on the market (specs here, comparison with Note here). With a quad-core 1.6GHz Exynos processor and 2GB RAM, it’s got more power than my previous laptop. The transitions are pretty slick. Could play Max Payne without any lag whatsoever. Note that (no pun intended) I tried everything in the stock TouchWiz launcher and without many third-party apps running in the background, so yeah, you get my point.

Samsung Galaxy Note II

Jelly Bean comes pre-installed in Note 2 with better camera, actionable notifications and all. (Even though the Note comes with Gingerbread, it’s upgradeable to Jelly Bean.) There’s this pop-up video player thingy and other fancy apps.

All the nonsense aside, let’s talk about the size. The Note’s screen was 5.3″, whereas it’s 5.5″ in Note 2. However, it’s less wide than the Note. Which means it feels better in the hand. Several of my friends who hated the original Note’s dimensions said they like the new design. Then how come the bigger screen? Yes, Note 2 is longer than the Note. It’s like some idiot took the Note and pulled it from either side. This has made the resolution to go down to 720×1280 (as opposed to 800×1280 in the Note). And less pixel density. I personally prefer what it was like in the original Note.

Note 2 (on the left) vs the Note

S-Pen functionality is much better with the Note 2. There’s some kind of sensor in the S-Pen slot, so when you take it out or put it back in, the phone knows. Taking the stylus out automatically takes you to a screen with many S-Pen-capable apps. Also a notification icon appears in the top bar saying that the pen is not on the slot, reducing the chances of losing it (as happened with my Note. Had to buy a replacement and it wasn’t cheap). It detects when you hover the pen above the screen as well. For example, if you hover the pen over the pictures in the Gallery (or events in the calendar), they will quickly zoom in and zoom out once you move the pen away. And stuff.

Hovering the pen over Video Player’s progress bar

Regardless of how much I hate the new screen and the dimensions, I prefer the Note 2 to Note. I would buy if I could. Apparently you’d be able to grab one from Etisalat itself in a few days. And there’s this small video interview I had with them about Note 2 which will be available in their Youtube channel in a few days.

UPDATE: Here’s my interview with Amitha on the Note II.

n7player is on sale!

The home screen

Zoom with multi-touch to view albums

n7player is perhaps the most visually appealing music player for android. I’ve been using it since it was in the beta stages and have never looked back. Of course, I’ve used doubleTwist Player (which I still use as a backup), PowerAmp and Mixzing; but none could compete with the beauty of n7player.

Another feature I love about n7player is that it lets you choose what your music directories are. Most other players get crowded with mp3 files that are not in your music collection. Besides this and the stunning appearance, it’s got a graphic equalizer, bass boost, an album art downloader, sleep timer and several other features.

Recently added landscape view

Not that it’s perfect in every aspect. The lack of control the user has over the playlist will get apparent if you use it regularly. This is the biggest grievance you’d hear from a n7player user. Hope the devs would add better playlist management features soon and, mind you, this has never been a reason to ditch the player over others.

The free version of the app is only a 14 day trial. The full version unlocker usually costs $2.89, but it’s on a sale for $0.99 for a limited time. Believe me, you won’t repent even if you bought it for the full price.

ICS on the Galaxy Note

Finally the Galaxy Note got its long awaited Ice Cream Sandwich update. Long awaited because Samsung first announced that ICS for Note will start rolling out on Q1 of 2012, but it didn’t until May. According to several Galaxy Note forums the update first appeared in several Eurpoean countries. And now it’s here in Sri Lanka. The update came on 31st of May, so I’ve been using it for about 10 days.

How is ICS on the Note? Impressive if you ask me, but not without some issues. I’ll be just listing some stuff I found out to be quite handy below; it’s not possible to explain everything in detail. Also, some of them might be subjective.

Look and feel
As most of you might have seen or experienced, the ICS interface has gone through a massive overhaul. Frankly, it’s fun to do stuff and see the beautiful menus come out. Most pre-installed apps come with major UI improvements. Sadly, TouchWiz (the stock launcher of Samsung) is pretty much the same as it was in Gingerbread. In fact, you can’t get the real ICS experience with TouchWiz. Dumped it and started using the ICS-only Apex Launcher which is pretty cool.

Home screen (Apex Launcher)

Google Play + search menu + Swiftkey 3 beta keyboard

Notifications
The new notification system is elegant. The most useful feature I found is that you can discard individual notifications by swiping them. Can’t imagine how I used to live without this.

Calling
The call log’s less cluttered and is bundled with more useful info. It’s possilbe to reject calls with preset messages using two taps. Switching between calls is now easier.

Other
There are lots more new functionality/enhancements besides these. Multitasking’s been improved in leaps and bounds. The task switcher is completely revamped. It displays large thumbnails, gives you access to a long history and you can remove items by swiping. No need for third-party apps for recording data usage anymore. You can take screenshots without rooting, but Galaxy Note had this ability since the beginning. There’s a Face Unlock feature I’m yet to try out. Action bars are natively supported now. ICS-only apps are coming up, like Chrome for Android. And several new launchers, twitter apps, etc require you have ICS. The list goes on.

The bad
During the first day after the upgrade things appeared pretty slow. A few restarts solved most of the problems but there are still a few noticeable lags present.
Battery life doesn’t seem to have increased as promised. It wouldn’t last a day sometimes. Forums indicated that this is a common issue and most have solved this by running down the battery and recharging fully a couple of times. Actually I did this when I first bought the Note and it improved the battery life substantially. Going to repeat the process in the coming week.
My biggest gripe is the frequent crashing of the launcher. By frequent I mean several times a day. Then I moved back to TouchWiz and found out the issue isn’t present there. A problem with Apex Launcher apparently. Rather, a problem with Apex Launcher on Note. I’m hoping some updates would come out soon and fix the problems.

How do I get the upgrade?
Connect the phone to the PC and start Kies. A notification will pop up saying you’ve got a new update! The process took more than an hour in my case. Note that some settings like the home screen and the app drawer will reset during the upgrade.

Also, I rooted the Note after the ICS upgrade. That would be another post perhaps.

I Can’t Wake Up!

This blog lives. For the past few weeks I’ve been just wandering lonely as a cloud without purpose. Have never had a purpose in life, but it’s struck me like never before lately. Suicide is but a distant option.

No, you just can’t walk away from life.

There are things in life you don’t have a say on and you just have to survive.

Okay, enough drama for the day. 😛

Do you always plan to wake up early and get some work done, but have never been able to actually wake up? Do you always snooze the alarm until it’s really past the hour? Do you simply turn off the alarm and go back to sleep each time? Have you even given up the idea of getting up early just because you know you can’t do that? Do you always say to yourself ‘I can’t wake up!’? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions you’ve come to the right place. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you, I Can’t Wake Up!

Joking aside, I Can’t Wake Up! is the best alarm for android I’ve yet come across. You can make use of several ‘wake up methods’ to make sure you just don’t turn off the alarm and fall back to sleep. Wake up methods aren’t new to the world of alarms. For example I’ve been using Alarm Clock Xtreme Free for more than a year and it had this ‘math to dismiss’ this feature. You have to solve some math problems of a specified skill level if you are to turn the alarm off. I always chose ‘Hardest’ so that I’ll have to turn on the computer to solve them, thus making sure I won’t go back to sleep. But as of late, I became so accustomed to the problems I could just solve them in bed and go back to sleep.

Main screen

Set of available wake up methods

I Can’t Wake Up includes several wake up methods to make sure turning it off ain’t easy. What made me fall for it was the ‘Bar code’ method. Once the alarm goes off, you have to authenticate using one or more barcodes (or QR codes for that matter) to turn it off. Let’s say the barcodes you find in the back covers of books. You first scan the codes in to the app and place a few books in various places of the house at night. In the morning you’ll have to walk to each book, turn on the lights and scan all the codes (which may take a few seconds per code if you’re too sleepy) if you’re to turn off the alarm.

List of bar codes you need to scan to turn off the alarm

Solve all the math problems to turn it off. Mind you, this isn’t the hardest level.

There are a few other alarm apps that make use of the barcode method, but I Can’t Wake Up does it at the best. And it’s feature-packed than any other. Not that it’s perfect. You can’t sort the alarms by time as of yet, and there are ads in the free version. But the pros outweigh the cons.

Wish it had a feature that would only turn the alarm off after I write and publish a post in the blog. Anyway I promise to continue updating the blog every once in a while. Not that anyone cares if I blog or not, but still. So… until then.. back to wandering lonely as a cloud searching for the meaning of life. 😀

BookHub.lk – Sri Lanka finally gets an ebook store

Bookhub.lk banner

Bookhub.lk was launched two days back, and Sri Lanka has finally got a proper ebook store. Proper I say because the project is backed by two giants: Etisalat from the mobile world and M.D.Gunasena from the book industry. There have been previous attempts like pothpath.lk (which isn’t a store after all), but Bookhub is fortunate enough to have the backing of good sponsors.

Even though initiated by Etisalat, the books aren’t restricted to its users. You have to visit the bookhub.lk website and register for an account to purchase books. You can either pay with your credit card or Etisalat credit. Then you open up the bookhub e-reader app (which is only available for android for the moment, but apparently a PC edition and an iOS edition are on the way), and download the purchased books to the device. And you’re good to go.

The downloaded ebooks reside in their own directories with separate files for content, styles, images and meta data. The content is in OPF files, so if you zip such a directory and rename it as an ePub you’ll be able to read the book with any e-reading app or device. This also means that there’s no DRM and you can share the books with anyone once downloaded.

And talking about the android app, it sucks (see footnote). The user interface isn’t friendly and the menu options don’t work. You have to enter login details every time to download the books (so please choose an easy-to-type password while registering). Text rendering isn’t perfect, but readable. When you touch the edge of the screen to flip through the pages, several pages turn instead of one. I emailed the developers yesterday about this but still they haven’t replied. Later I learned that I can properly flip the pages if I touch the screen very… gently and take the finger back asap. It’s like a beta app; or an alpha one rather.

Main interface

Main interface of the app

Downloading books

Purchased books can be downloaded in one tap

alice in wonderland

Alice in Wonderland. Text rendering isn't perfect but readable.

Aladin

Aladin. It's not just text.

Dhaaraa

Dhaaraa. The only book I'm going to read from the available ones.

The store only has about 25 books for the moment, some Sinhala ones and some English. There will be tamil ones in the future as well. As for the English ones, all the books currently available there are ones from the public domain. Pride and Prejudice costs 400 rupees, which is ridiculous. You can get it for free from Project Gutenberg.

Regardless of the shortcomings in the app and the current state of the book store, the project is likely to be a success. The Etisalat website reports,

The content will go beyond novels, potentially including any locally published material such as educational publications, magazines, children’s books, religious texts, business journals, etc. Going forward the parties involved also commented on the possibility of adding newspapers and school textbooks to the eBook store.

This is likely to fill a huge gap by making local books available for the digital media and and the userbase will most probably grow once the store is able to boast of a considerable amount of titles. I just hope the prices wouldn’t make it cheaper to buy the paperbacks.

P.S. I almost forgot the most important piece of information: all the books currently in the store are available for free for the week starting from Monday, 26th of March. So hurry up and grab if you’d like to give the service a try.

EDIT: Just hours after this blog post, the Bookhub.lk android app had been updated. Several issues have been fixed. It now remembers your login credentials. Page turning is less buggy now. There are still many lags and quirks, hope they’d get fixed soon as well.

Angry Birds Space

Angry Birds Space

The bubble around the asteroid marks its gravitational field

The eagerly awaited Angry Birds Space, the fourth Angry Birds game from Rovio, finally landed today on Android, iOS, MacOS and Windows. It had been announced since a few months ago, but I was a skeptical about how they would create a new experience that’s markedly different from the previous versions. In fact, all the three games they’ve released up to now had basically the same gameplay except for the new levels and all.

Danger Zone

First level of the Danger Zone

Half an hour with Space proved that my doubts were unfounded. It’s a totally different experience. The game takes place in outer space, which means it doesn’t have the earth’s boring gravity anymore. Things are worse. When you release the bird, it travels in a zero gravity space until it reaches the atmosphere of a planet or an asteroid and is forced into its own gravitational field. This can be more complex than it sounds. I still couldn’t get past the first level in the Danger Zone, which, according to Rovio, is the most difficult Angry Birds level pack ever.

Angry Birds Space and Galaxy Note

Angry birds space - Galaxy Note exclusive level

The exclusive level for Note

Samsung Galaxy Note is the official launch partner for Space. There’s a special level in the game featuring Lazer Bird exclusively for Galaxy Note owners and they get the Danger Zone pack is free for three months. But ironically, it’s clear that the game hasn’t been optimized for the Note’s screen. Most cut scenes and menus are obviously made for low resolution displays. Which is a shame coz of all the advertising Samsung did before the release. But still, the game play is pretty fun than playing on a smaller screen. I’m yet to try the game on a tablet.

Welcome the Galaxy Note!

A perfect phone may not have been invented yet, but the Galaxy Note has triumphed in becoming the closest to that extreme.

— Oscar Wilde

galaxy note

The Galaxy Note

Why would one need a 5.3″ phone? Let me ask you first, why would one need a phone? If all you need is to make calls and text, even an iPhone would be enough for you. But for those of you who need a smartphone and not just a phone, you’ll have to think further.

Enter the Galaxy Note

confused about size

But.. but... is it a phone or a tablet?

Phone? Tablet? Two words: both. Well, that was only one word. Anyway, the Note is the best of both worlds. It is capable of doing everything a normal smartphone can and most of the stuff a tablet can. And it can do stuff neither device is single-handedly capable of.

Making phone calls: Some people still use mobile phones to make calls. And they have the rational fear of the Note being too large to fit in your hand during the call. But that’s only till you really try making a call with it. You’ll find that there is no inconvenience at all. If you are too scared of taking it to your ear in public, you can always use the earphones.

"I love you, too, honey!"

And talking about the earphones that comes in the box, you can’t ask for a better pair to come bundled with a phone. It’s still scores less when compared to my skullcandy, but I’ve given it a break and started using the Samsung pair full-time.

Surfing the web: The web browsing experience is enhanced by leaps and bounds thanks to the large screen. You can safely turn off the mobile views of the pages and deal with the real stuff. Now that this has become my main surfing medium, I had to upgrade to the 2GB data package. Perhaps this won’t be enough either. Thankfully Dialog gives half-a-dozen of attractive data plans to choose from.

Music: I didn’t like the in-built music player at all. It doesn’t even have a home screen widget. Settled with the free version of PowerAmp.

Movies: Just drag in any type of video file and it will play flawlessly in the Note. Yeah, you don’t get the movie theatre experience, but it’s far more pleasing than watching a movie in a normal smartphone. The quality of the 1280×800 super AMOLED display is a must have experience. Also, I found it perfect for watching video lectures.

Camera: The 8MP camera does way better than it’s supposed to do. And the camcorder is awesome. 1080p movies! Just imagine! The 2MP front camera lets you ditch the mirror for Note.

Reading: It’s a good replacement for your reading device. The screen is big enough not to make the reading experience awkward. You don’t have to turn the page after each sentence. Installed Screen Filter so that I can control the brightness of the device at my will. Sorry, Kindle. And if you’re a comic fan, the Note is the perfect device for you.

The first book I read with the Note

Battery life: Note comes with a whopping 2500mAh battery. So don’t worry about the screen being too large. All the reviewers, including Engadget, praise the Note’s battery. As mentioned earlier, you can optionally use an app like Screen Filter to manually control brightness and stuff, and if you’re still worried you always have JuiceDefender.

A stylus? Weeeeeee!
The S pen almost doubles the usefulness of the Note. Doodle, take notes, swype, or just give your finger a break. And the pen is able to perform several other control functions, including taking screenshots. Anyway the hand writing recognition was a fail to me. Oh well, I’ve never been good at hand writing.

Galaxy Note doodle

A doodle by Sapumal

Ice cream sammich!!
Samsung says they will release an update for ICS within the Q1 of 2012. Hope they’d keep their word.

Looking to buy one?
I wouldn’t recommend the Note to everybody. Your needs may differ. But if you’re like me, this is the phone you’ve been waiting for all your life. The best advice would be to try before buying. You’d also be interested in the stuff you can’t do without a Galaxy Note.

And finally…
I’m so in love with the Note, I doubt there’s room left in my heart for a girl. I even sleep with it by my side. Simply because it’s so awesome and worths a hell lot more than what you pay for it.

Vodafone 945 – thoughts, rooting and installing sinhala

So finally I ditched my beloved Nokia E63 to an android, Vodafone 945. It isn’t a high-end device, but it’s as far as I can reach to an android right now.

Vodafone 945
Talking about the cons, the resolution (240×400) of the 3.2 inch screen is rather low, but one can live with that. Perhaps that’s the only major problem with this phone. The response time of the capacitative touch screen is quite satisfactory and it’s fast for a 600MHz device. There’s nothing to whine about the battery life too. The OS is Android 2.1 (Eclair). I’m still trying hard to get used to the touch keyboard. Badly miss the physical QWERTY keyboard of my E63.

The 5 megapixel camera works great. Here’s a snap I took this morning. (Click on the photo to view the original size)

Snap taken from the Vodafone 945 camera

Rooting
You can simply install the app z4root and root the device. I wasn’t able to do a permanent root, only the temporary one (which lasts till the next restart) worked. But it’s enough for the needs.

Installing Sinhala and the Ubuntu font
After rooting, install the app Root Explorer and copy these three fonts to the /system/fonts directory. You’ll have to enable R/W permissions for the directory. You won’t get complex scripting support for Sinhala unicode, but the outcome is readable.
Sinhala in Vodafone 945 (Android)
It’s also advisable to use Root App Remover to remove the stupid trial-ware that come pre-installed with the device.

Many thanks to Akila for walking me through rooting and installing Sinhala.

I don’t need an android

Nokia E63So I decided, I really don’t need an android. My symbian is able to provide me with almost all the stuff I would want from a phone. With it I can read books, listen to music and podcasts, scrobble to last.fm, set alarms, tweet, check email and browse the web occasionally, look up for definitions, take notes, and finally, call and text. At the moment there really is no other reason why I should look for a better phone. Why would I pay huge sums just to have several more apps and play Angry Birds? So, until the day I get a job and collect enough cash to buy an HTC Desire, my sweet little E63 will stay by my side.