The Technology that changed my Life

I have been studying Computer Science for the past year or so, and I have, of course, learned quite a lot of new things to do on a computer. I learned to program with Java/Java SWING, C, Assember, and Scala. I learned how to use Eclipse and Subversion. Recently I’ve experimented with different text editors: Gedit, Nano, Vim, Emacs (which is my favorite so far), and Notepad++ (for Windows). But not one of these things actually changed how I use computers. But then a couple of months ago, I got my first smartphone. I got a beautiful Samsung Galaxy S II with Android 2.3 and a beautiful screen that cost me a small fortune (at least from my budget). Then I was an idiot and lost it. I literally felt like I lost an arm or a leg because somehow in the two weeks or so that I had my phone, I got extremely attached to it.

I was actually quite late getting on the smartphone train. My brother and sister have been rocking awesome android phones for much longer than I have and they are considerably less geeky than I am (at least my sister is. My brother is an engineer and likes discussing calculus in his free time, so he also qualifies as being a huge geek). My mother even got an iPad last year. But once I made the plunge, I couldn’t go back. My replacement phone is the LG Optimus One with Android 2.2 Froyo:


It is a pretty sweet phone. It was not extremely expensive and it has all of the features that you would expect and require from an Android phone. I am not a photo geek (I don’t like taking pictures at all) and I don’t like talking on the phone either (unless I am in the mood), so the apps that I use are mainly for accessing the web from wherever I am. But I thought I would use this post to give a shout out to my favorite apps:

1. Social Networking Apps:

For Facebook, I use the generic pre-installed facebook app. I don’t actually care for it that much, but then again, I don’t really care for facebook all that much either. Google+ is the new social networking site that was released by google about a couple of months ago. The google+ app is quite nice. My favorite social networking site is still Twitter. There seem to be thousands of different twitter apps, and up until recently, I was using Seesmic for my twitter needs, but the links in the tweets stopped working, so now I switched back to the official Twitter app. I won’t really go into detail here about the differences between all of these sites because it would take too long. I am seriously considering doing a blog on that topic though.

2. Google Reader

One of the major changes that Android has made to my life was introducing me to Google Reader. I used to look up all of my favorite blogs by hand and never really thought twice about it. But once I got android, I found that reading blogs with the provided browser is not the best experience. So I went ahead and installed Google Reader on my phone and I LOVE IT!!! Whenever anybody in my Google Reader list posts anything, my phone syncs the info automatically and the little folder on my home screen shows the number of posts that I haven’t read yet. I can just open up Google Reader and read my favorite blogs in the tram, bus, or really boring calculus lecture. One of the disadvantages is that I am no longer able to comment as easily, so I don’t seem to be using the internet as much, when in actuality, I am using it much more.

3. Amazon Kindle

I have had a Kindle ebook reader for a year now, and I absolutely love that thing. I have raved about my Kindle before, and I consider it to be one of my necessary tools in order to survive long trips (I wrote earlier this week complaining about the 17+ hour bus trip I was on. I didn’t have my Kindle. Otherwise 17 hours would have flown by). The Kindle app for Android is also quite nice. When I was flying back from Venice, my real Kindle ran out of batteries, and being able to finish my novel on my Kindle was a lifesaver! It is surprisingly easy to read a book on a 3.2 inch screen.

4. Dropbox

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t rave about Dropbox at any given time of the day. And it is the truth. If you do have a smartphone, check out Dropbox. There is absolutely no reason not to, and you will not regret it. Even if you only have to sync one file between your computer and smartphone ONCE, you will benefit from it. It is absolutely free to get 2 GB of space! You can sync one file between any number of computers/smartphones. Click here to try Dropbox out and get 250 MB of free space!

5. Email

I managed to find the app “Hot Email” which allows me to check my Hotmail email on my phone. It is alright, although I am definitely open for suggestions. Not that I am that hopeful. I have had my msn address since 2004, and up until I got my phone, I found the email service perfectly adequate. I was just too lazy to actually switch to my gmail account permanently, even though I got that one when Gmail came out (yeah…back in the day when you needed an invite to join Gmail). But now that I have an android phone, I actually use my gmail account more! Why? Because my phone messages me whenever I get an email in my Gmail account and the gmail app is really nice for reading emails and sending them as well. It is awesome! Gmail makes emailing feel like texting.

6. Simple Notepad

I have tried out TONS of different todo applications, but they always annoyed me. I hate it when I have any alarms. I also hate it when I have to make multiple entries and edit a ton. I found that I was missing my mirror (because I always write what I have to do on my mirror). But then I found Simple Notepad. It does have a check-list option, but I always just make a text document and edit it. The nice thing about Simple Notepad is that you can use the widget option to post your todo list on one of your desktop screens like I have done above.

7. WhatsApp

WhatsApp is an app that allows you to text people who also have WhatsApp for free!

8. MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is an excellent app for keeping track of your exercise, calorie intake, and current weight. I just started using it this week because I just started my no sugar thing, but I find it to be a very nice app. I was most surprised with the support it has for the foods in Germany. I found almost everything that I was looking for. It also allows you to record your weight in kilograms which is quite nice.

9. WikipediaMobile

Wikipedia is my search engine of choice, and WikipediaMobile lets me look up whatever I want, whenever I want. It’s pretty sweet.

10. Angry Birds

A very fun and very addicting game!!!

 

This post was inspired because Lifehacker just released their new Pack for Android, so be sure to check that out as well! And if you have your own favorite mobile apps, please comment and let me know about them!

10 Comments

  1. I’m a compsci who also hasn’t jumped on the smartphone bandwagon yet. People who know me, shake their heads in disbelief at my simple yet durable Nokia. But I only have to charge it once every 3 or 4 days, and less if I don’t use it much!

    Anyway, thanks for the post – can consider all these apps if I get a smartphone anytime soon :)

    For me, the software that has most recently changed my life is definitely Dropbox – and I hadn’t even considered it’s integration with a smartphone. Does it work for an iphone too? Anyway, since using Dropbox (coupled with a remote DB server), I have even stopped using Subversion, although that does still have its uses.

    My text editor of choice is Textpad 4.. it probably is similar to Notepad++.

    Reply
  2. I believe they have Dropbox for iPhone as well. And I also agree that Dropbox is amazing and changes the way you use computers. For programs that I am developing by myself, I also always use Dropbox to sync between computers. But for work I have to use subversion because subversion allows you to edit conflicts and to revert to old revisions which is necessary when working with a team of people.

    Reply
  3. Git works pretty well with dropbox. And yes, there ist an iPhone App for dropbox.

    Stick with emacs. It has a steep learning curve, but it’s totally worth it. There is even a mode for organizing todos (http://orgmode.org/) and it also uses plain text files.

    Reply
  4. Great, I’ll refer the iPhone app to someone who was unable to send me a file any other way! :)

    That’s a good point regarding Dropbox versus Subversion – I guess most of my programming projects have been just me working on them, or they have been remote-based anyway. Editing conflicts would be the next step up for Dropbox, rather than just labelling them! (You should be able to revert to old versions though, although it’s not something I have done much).

    I also like that you can add comments to Subversion when you commit a revision.

    Reply
  5. whoa…a palm phone is all I need. Although when it breaks, I will get a iphone to sync with my ipad. As far as apps go… who needs them. :) I use my notebook, my corculous, my reader, and my mail and internet site. I have dropbox on my computer, but don’t know what it is for. My geeky daughter has her work cut out for her to “TEACH” me how to be a geek. :) LUBM

    Reply
  6. You have an iPad. That already qualifies you as being more techy than 50% of the rest of the your generation. At least. And don’t worry. I won’t have to work hard to teach you to be a geek. All I have to do is install tons of awesome apps on your iPad when I come home, and that will convince you.

    Reply

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