Category Archives: Apps
I don't use cloud file storage services much, but I do use Dropbox for online note taking on all the platforms (Linux, Android, Symbian) I use. The notes are just plain text files containing things I want to remember and have available everywhere like; family member's clothing sizes for gift shopping, GSM hash codes, frequent flier numbers, train schedules, tech tips, etc. I create and update the notes with a text editor; gedit on Linux, redak on Symbian and Text Edit or the built in editor in the Dropbox app on Android.
I've been taking notes on my mobile devices since my Palm Pilot days. Initially I used Palm Memos, then Zaurus Memos, then Symbian Notes. I currently have hundreds of these notes, some over 10 years old.
Migrating notes from one proprietary platform to the next was always painful and time consuming. So I recently converted all my notes into plain text files and organized them by category in Dropbox folders, which I believe that's a future proof solution. If Dropbox goes away I can copy my local folders of text files to a different cloud storage system or even my FTP server.
I prefer Dropbox over other cloud services because it has robust clients for the three platforms that I use. On Android and Linux I use Dropbox's own clients and on my Nokia N8 I use Cutebox, a very good 3rd party client for Symbian Belle (I still carry my Nokia N8 quite a bit, especially when I plan to do some photography). The apps on all three platforms let me store local copies of my notes, so I'm not dependent on having connectivity to be able look something up.
I like to be able to use Dropbox on Windows Phone like I do other platforms, by keeping a copy of my Dropbox notes in a file system folder where I could open them with any text editor or other compatible app. But Windows Phone doesn't have a user accessible file system so that's not possible. However each Windows Phone app does get read/write access to it's own sandboxed area of the filesystem so a Windows Phone Dropbox app should at least be able to able to:
- Download a text file note from Dropbox for viewing an or editing with a built in editor.
- Save a local copy of the note so it's available offline and I don't have to waste time and bandwidth re-downloading the file every time I want to view it.
- If the file is edited on the phone, allow the updated file to be uploaded to Dropbox.
- Support creating new plain text notes on the phone and uploading them to Dropbox.
On iOS, which I don't use but which has a sandboxed file system similar to WP8, the official Dropbox app appears to be able to do everything I want. There's no official Dropbox app for Windows Phone, but there are about a dozen third party Windows Phone Dropbox apps. Surely, I though, one of them could meet my needs Well, I looked at all of them and not one really does what I want.
The Windows Phone Dropbox app that comes closest to meeting my needs is BoxShot ($1.29, also available as a free ad supported app with slightly reduced functionality). It lets me view and edit the text files in my Dropbox using a built in editor (image above, center) and create new text notes and upload them to Dropbox. The only thing missing is that it doesn't let me to save a local copy of a note.
BoxShot has a lot of other features besides the ability view and edit Drop text files. The free version can search for files in your Dropbox, upload photos to Dropbox from the Gallery or camera, rename or delete Dropbox files and folders and move or copy files between Dropbox folders. The paid version does all that plus it removes the ads, adds the ability to automatically sync one or more photo folders to Dropbox and has a Live Tile (image below, center) that displays your Dropbox quota and free space.
Besides lacking the ability to save a Dropbox file locally there are a couple of other BoxShot features that could work better. The search shows you files whose names match the search string, but taping the filename just opens the folder the file is in rather than the file itself. Photo folder syncing is great, and unlike uploading with the Gallery's built-in Skydrive uploading, photos are uploaded in their original size. But I wish there were an option to restrict automatic uploading to Wi-Fi only so I don't burn through my limited mobile data allocation uploading high resolution images.
Interesting, there's a free Google Drive Windows Phone app called GDocs that does everything I need including saving a local copy of every file you view or edit (image below, right). I'd move all my notes over to Google Drive except that I haven't found any good Symbian or Linux clients for Google Drive.
A Linux User's Nokia Lumia 920 Review - Part 1: First Impressions and Google Apps Integration
A Linux User's Nokia Lumia 920 Review - Part 3: Transferring Files Between Windows Phone 8 and Ubuntu
A Linux User's Nokia Lumia 920 Review - Part 4 The IE10 Mobile Browser
My favorite eBook reader is now available for Symbian 5th Ed. and later and MeeGo/Harmattan. It's FBReader, which I started using around 2005 on a Sharp Zaurus Linux PDA. FBReader is open source software that runs on just about every Linux based portable platform including Android and Maemo as well as on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows PCs.
The Symbian and MeeGo/Harmattan versions are labeled as Betas with the disclaimer that aren't production quality. A production release for both platforms is due by the end of 2011. Although there are some minor annoyances, FBReader for Symbian is already very usable. It supports the ePub and FB2 formats. I tried several books in each format they all worked well including images and proper formatting. FBReader on other platorms supports additional formats including HTML, Plucker, PalmDoc, zTxt, TCR, CHM, RTF in addition to ePub and FB2, so I imagine those will be added to the Symbian and MeeGo versions eventually.
The FBReader Symbian version's feature set is similar to that of the Android version. It can open eBook files from any directory in the file system and has an online library feature that lets you search for and download books from Feedbooks, ManyBooks, Smashwords and other online sources. You can your other network libraries that support the OPDS standard. There's a full text search function and table of contents support, but no bookmarks or annotations. The Android version supports bookmarks and I expect the Symbian and NeeGo ones will at some point as well.
There are plenty of configuration options too. You can change fonts, margins, justification, line spacing, text and,background colors and the scrolling method (tapping or swiping either the left and right or top and bottom edges or by using the volume rocker).
Although it's a Beta, and there are some missing features, FBReader seems fast and reliable on the N8. It's great to finally have a native Symbian book reader that supports online libraries and ePub, the most widely supported open format for eBooks.
Download FBeader tor Symbian and MeeGo from fbreader.org.
The focus of this site is on mobile web apps so I rarely cover native apps. However I prefer using a native app for password management. I want my passwords available instantly and everywhere regardless of whether I have a wireless signal or not. I also need a password management solution that works on all my devices using the same encrpted password database. I use Windows and Linux PCs as well as Android andSymbian smartphones and basic feature phones with Java ME support.
There are some excellent comercial password mananagement utilities that support multiple platforms. But none that I know of support all the platforms I use. Cost is also an issue when you use as many devices as I do including review phones that I have just for only a couple of weeks.
My solution for password management and one I recommend highly is KeePass Password Safe. It's free open source software (FOSS) for securely storing passwords, PINS, social security numbers and any other data you want to keep hidden from prying eyes. Originally a Windows PC only app, KeePass has been ported to many platforms including; Mac OS X, Linux, iPhone, iPad,Android, BlackBerry, Java ME, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7. There's a list of all ports with links on the KeePass site.
I use KeePassX on my Linux laptop. The copy on the laptop is my master password store and is where I edit and modify passwords. I frequently copy the KeyPass database (using bluetooth and my LAN) to my other PCs and phones that are running a variety of KeePass versions. KeePass Classic Edition on Windows XP, KeePass Droid on Android, first image, and KeyPassJ2ME on Symbian and dumbphones, second image.
The KeyPass apps I use work well together. KeyPassJ2ME is noteworthy for its support for basic phones that don't allow Java apps to access the filesystem. A companion KeePass Packer desktop app lets you build a special version of KeePassJ2ME with a read-only copy of the password database encapsulated in the app itself.
Several of the mobile implementations of KeyPass have mobile friendly download sites (listed below) which I've added to the WapReview Mobile Directory's mobile downloads section.
I've been having a lot of fun exploring the Samsung Wave Bada phone that I got at the Bada Devloper Day last week. I continue to be impressed with many aspects of the phone, especially the gorgeous Super AMOLED screen and great build quality. Except for the plastic end caps, the phone is all metal, including the battery cover. Plus it's stable (no crashes yet), the UI is snappy and the battery lasts a couple of days on standby.
There are a couple of things that bug me about the phone though. One is the tiny fonts and lack of text reflow in the browser that makes many desktop sites unusable. The other issue is that because I'm in the US which is an un-supported country, I can't use the Samsung Apps app store on the device or on the web. If I launch Samsing Apps on the phone, all I get is a screen that says "No data". Samsungapps.com tells me that "This service is not available in your country".
Of course I really wanted to see what Samsung Apps looks like and sample what's available on the Bada platform. I suspected that the phone is just checking the SIM's country code so I popped an old expired Wind Italy prepaid SIM in the phone , connected with WiFi and Samsung Apps opened. Some of the menus and app descriptions were in Italian but it wasn't hard to figure out. A Spanish Yoigo SIM also worked.
Samsung Apps looks really good especially considering that it's brand new. The user interface reminds me a little of the Android Market but with better performance and a simpler interface. The incremental search is slick. I was looking for Electronic Arts' Need For Speed Shift, which Samsung is offering for free to the first 500,000 downloaders. I hit search and started typing. By the time I got to the second letter "ne" the title poped up without my having to touch the search button. Downloading is simply a matter of tapping the "Get" button, there are no annoying security warnings or confirmation dialogs! I counted just under 400 apps currently available in the Spanish Market.
Oh, and Need For Speed Shift is a pretty awesome game. It's an auto racing game obviously, you steer by tilting the phone and brake by taping the screen. It's a lot of fun and something you can get right into without much of a learning curve. The Bada version looks like a direct port of the iPhone version but with punchier graphics compared to the iPhone 3GS, thanks to the Wave's brilliant screen.