A Dozen of My Favorite Free Android Apps

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Look, I know there are a thousand-​and-​one posts on the internet about the best smartphone apps. I’ve a bunch of apps on my phone, and I use some more frequently than others. However, I want to share the ones that I enjoy which might not be so ubiquitous.


  • ConnectBot — This app connects you with a Unix terminal, remotely and securely to another IP address, and does the same thing locally. It works great if you’re tweaking the permissions of your phone.
  • Advanced Task Killer — This app lets you quit programs that you’re running in the background or forget to exit, with just two taps. It really helps me save on battery life and showed me which programs keep turning on all the time. I used ConnectBot to disable them.
  • Remote Desktop — Rather than have to plug my phone into my computer via USB to download photos, &c. or pay for a service to sync items, this application lets me connect to my phone via IP address when I’ve got it connected to my home wireless.


  • Google Reader — This is a well known piece of the Google pie, but this app works so much better than using Reader on a computer that I find myself browsing through on my phone when there’s a computer within arm’s reach.
  • iPaper — This is the Android app that allows access to InstaPaper, a bookmarklet service that allows you to archive web articles for reading at a later date. Perfect for when you’re stuck someplace with nothing worth reading nearby.


  • Sit Ups — This app helps you set a sit up goal, assesses your physical condition and then tailors an iterative and timed workout to help you reach the goal. Pick a goal, input your starting ability, follow the workout prompts (a gym whistle blows when the rest period is over), and then input how difficult you found the workout. The next session will be changed slightly based on your feedback.
  • Push Ups — Same deal, except for pushups.


  • Star Traders — This is a space trading, turn-​based economy RPG that’s pretty brutal. Small choices have cumulative impacts on how you can interact with the various planets you visit. It has really tough achievements too. The Élite version is $1.99 and gives access to better ship upgrades, more missions and more planets.
  • Scrambled Net — A simply designed but addictive puzzle game. Connect the tubes from the server to the monitors to make sure everyone has some internets. I play this all the time.
  • Geared — This is another puzzle game (with very pleasing graphics). With a limited number of gears of different sizes, and a limited amount of space to work with, you have to connect the moving yellow gear too all of the stationary blue gears.


  • Color Note — Because of this app, I no longer walk about with little scraps of note paper fluttering about me like moths. The grocery checklist is my boon companion. I don’t forget stuff on the list anymore!
  • Toddler Lock — This secures the phone so your offspring can play with it. I literally have to wrestle the phone away from Abraham when he uses it. Swiping lets you draw, tapping places shapes, and there are pleasant chimes playing all the while.

Old and Young and Old

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

I remember when I was a battalion intelligence officer in World War II, in Northern Italy.


We were passing through these little old towns. The houses weren’t big, but all the generations were there. The old weren’t put out to pasture. They were our best means of communication. They were what civilization is about: human history, work, generations. Old ones, grandparents, even great-​grandparents, talked to the little ones, and fascinated them. It was the oral tradition, generation after generation. Instead of watching television, the child listened to the old one, learning his history of dreams and wonder.

Our young haven’t lost their history, it was taken from them. We’ve stuffed them into a procrustean bed. Remember him? Procrustes? If the guest didn’t fit, he’d cut him or stretch him. That’s what we’re doing to our young, making them fit.

Here is a child, born with a sense of wonder, ready to admire and love what is seen and experienced. We say, “Watch it now, a little bit less, cool it, cool it,” until this extraordinary sense of wonder is reduced to nothing.


If the old person can’t listen anymore, he perpetuates the errors of his ancestors. You don’t need him. You need to say, “All right, Grandpa, when did you last change your mind about anything? When did you last get a new idea? Can I help you change your mind while you help me change mine?”

David Brower, as quoted by Studs Terkel in his book of oral history, Coming of Age