An App By Any Other Name…Would Still Work Just As Well

Several months ago, I wrote a blog entry about an app called Read It Later.  (This is a bookmarking application capable of interfacing across multiple devices; I use it to share my bookmarks between the different operating systems on my computer, and between my computer, phone, and tablet.)  The web developer for Read It Later (also called Read It Later) recently released the app Pocket to replace it.  The application still runs on your computer exactly as it did prior to the name,

Click to save.

whether you’re surfing for links to save,



The website is now saved as a bookmark.

adding bookmarks,

New app, same look.

accessing your Reading List,

An unread bookmark.

editing your bookmarks,





A "Read" bookmark.

or marking your bookmarks as Read.




The mobile version of the app, however, has seen a few changes.

For starters, the app is now called “Pocket -formerly Read It Later”.  Before the change, users would only be able to access their first ten bookmarks at a time – to view more, they would have to purchase the full application.  Not so anymore.  Now the user has access to all of their bookmarks at any time, automatically downloaded to their device to be viewed online and offline.  Best of all, the app is still free!

If you are looking for a way to sync your bookmarks across multiple devices, Pocket is a good application to consider.  (I especially like to use it on my tablet: my Fire is not a 3G enabled device, so having the ability to access the bookmarks saved offline on my device via Pocket is convenient if I am not in an area with free WiFi.)  This app is available now for download both on the android and iPhone marketplaces.  Happy bookmarking!

There’s An App For That

My nephews are completely fascinated with my Kindle Fire tablet.  If I have it powered on within a five meter radius of their position, they are instantly at my side – demanding to “play” with their Tía’s “toy”.  As I hardly thought the apps I frequent most – Evernote or Color Note – would hold their attention, and I definitely did not want them to access my internet browser, I needed to find an application that would be both kid friendly and easy to use.  I found that app in Kids Doodle.

The default screen.

When you open the Kids Doodle application for the first time, the screen you are presented with (after the prerequisite introduction/information screen) is blank, except for the six button options across the bottom of the screen.

Click to change background colors and/or erase screen.

The option on the far left is the background changing button.  Every time you touch this option, the screen erases itself and changes background color – almost like ripping off a used piece of blue construction paper to find a fresh green sheet underneath it.  Repeated touches to this option allows the user to cycle through the background colors available: black, navy blue, pale green, green, lime green, white, purple, lavender, peach, bright green, mustard yellow, burnt orange, slate gray, ocean blue…the list goes on.

Click to change your "pen".

The second to last option on the bottom-left hand side of the screen is the pen changing option.  With every touch of this button, the user is presented with a different kind of “pen” to use – giving the child (or adult) different options to pursue while drawing free-hand (with fingers) or with a stylus.  As for the options – the lines can become thin, fat, neon, or faded, and can either show up on the screen as a solid color or continuously change colors the longer the “pen” is used.

The third option from the end on the lower-left hand side of the screen is the Undo button.

Click to undo last action.

Click to change your "pen" into an eraser.

The option to the immediate right of the Undo button is the erase option.  Simply touch this option to transform your “pen” into an eraser.  When finished erasing, touch the pen changing option once to reactivate your “pen” and continue drawing.

Click to watch your drawing come to life, step-by-step!

The option second to the end on the screen’s lower-right hand side is the media button.  From the first “stroke of the pen” to the last on every new “sheet”, the Kids Doodle application records the user’s progress.  Pressing the media button shows the user a video of the picture they have just drawn, step-by-step from start to finish.  The video can be paused, stopped, fast-forwarded, rewound, and played again.

Click to save your masterpiece.

Here you have the option to save your work or share it.

The last option on the bottom-right hand side of the screen is the save button.  Pressing this option will save your current masterpiece into the Kids Doodle folder on your device.  Pressing the menu button on your tablet/phone will also give you the option to save your drawing, as well as the ability to easily share it with friends via email.

If you are looking for an app for your Android device that is easy to use and capable of entertaining curious young minds longer than a few seconds, I would highly recommend this free application for either your phone or tablet.  To download, either click on this link to send the app to your phone via the Amazon app marketplace, or type “Kids Doodle” (created by Bejoy Mobile) into the search bar of the Amazon marketplace on your phone.

An Ode To the App, Run Pee

I am a huge fan of author Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Number series.  For those who have perhaps never heard of this fantastic author or her books, this particular series is about a young woman who – after losing her job, car, and very nearly her apartment – goes to work for her cousin as a bond enforcement agent to make ends meet.  As an inexperienced bounty hunter, her bumbling efforts may read like a comedy of errors, but her determination sees to it  that in the end she always “gets her man/woman”.  The first book in the series, titled One For the Money, is being released on film in theaters tomorrow, and I am most excited to go see it!  (I can only hope that the producers for this movie have not taken too many liberties with the storyline as others have for other films…yes, M. Night Shyamalan, I’m looking at you.)

Whenever I go to the theater, there are three things I make sure to have with me: a travel mug of sweet tea (I am not paying a small fortune for soda at the concession stand, especially as I am not overly fond of soda), my Run Pee app on my phone, and a bag to keep it all in.  What is Run Pee, you may be wondering?  Made by polyGeek, this application’s purpose is to let moviegoers know the best times during the film to take a bathroom break (usually during scenes that are not as important to the plot and can therefore be missed), and how much time they have to conduct said break so as to not miss the best parts of the film.  As for myself, I use the app to determine whether or not I need to stay after the credits.  It is really nice to know ahead of time whether or not I need to stick around to catch those last few seconds of the movie.  (I hate waiting, only to find that there was nothing worth waiting for.)  To download this application, either click on this link to the android marketplace, or search “run pee” within your phone’s app store.  This app is available for both Android and Apple phones.

I am hoping to go see One For the Money this Saturday.  Until then, I need to dust off my bag, find my travel mug, and make sure my Run Pee app is up to date.  Then it’s on with the show!

What’s Up With the Pens?

If you have ever looked at a Kindle device, you will have noticed that they come packaged with stock images.  On the Kindle eReader, these images appear as a screensaver whenever the device has been left to idle; on the Kindle Fire, they are the background you see when you run the Fire with a different launcher that the one it came pre-installed with.  The images themselves are no so bad to look at – maybe I would not have minded them so much, were I not such a customization fiend.  I wanted to replace these images with my own (I like my NASA photos much better than random pictures of pens).  Unfortunately, the Fire comes with a built-in protocol that prevents users from using their own images: you will look at these pens and you will like it!  Irritated, I began to look into this issue in hopes of discovering a resolution.

Let me take a minute and back it up for those who I may have lost after I mentioned the phrase “adding a different launcher” to my Kindle.  What do I mean by “a different launcher”?  The launcher (or start-up/home screen) that the Fire comes with is extremely user-friendly: this makes it easy to navigate, and very easy to understand how it works.  While I can appreciate it from a new user’s perspective, I could not feign the same appreciation when comparing it to what I am used to dealing with on my phone or even my laptop.  I like a clean home screen with maybe a widget or two (like a clock and/or weather widget), and a hidden drop-down menu – not a carousel featuring pictures of every single app on my device.  I hated the carousel; it needed to go.

I decided to run the Go Launcher Ex application (found here, or by typing “Go Launcher Ex” into your phone’s Android marketplace) instead.  This is only one of the various options available to the user in terms of launchers, and seemed to be the app of choice among other Fire owners…and it is free.  Before doing this, you need to go to Amazon’s App Store and download the app ES File Explorer (by EStrongs, Inc.) to your Fire.  This free application is essentially a file manager for your Kindle, much like Windows Explorer for PC’s and the Mac Finder window.  Unfortunately, the Amazon App Store does not have the Go Launcher Ex app available for download – you will need to side-load it (explanation in last paragraph of linked post) and install it that way.  In order to side-load, obtain the .apk file from the Go Launcher Ex application and send it to your Kindle via data cable or in an email.  (I use the app Astro File Manager to obtain .apk files for all of my apps – it is free and extremely easy to operate!)  The ES File Explorer (ESFE) app allows you to find your downloaded .apk file and install it.  (The default Fire launcher does not have that capability, hence the necessity behind downloading ESFE.)  Voila!  You now have a new launcher!

As for that pesky problem of not being able to customize your own wallpaper – there is a solution.  You will need to download the free application Rotating Wallpaper (found here or in your phone’s marketplace under the same name).  With this app, you are able to pick as many (or few) pictures as you want and set them as your wallpaper.  Once you have transferred this app’s .apk file over to the Fire and installed it with ES File Explorer, open it up and touch Add Set; make sure to give your new wallpaper set (folder) a name when it prompts.  After you name the Set, you will be allowed to choose the image/s you wish to have as your wallpaper.  When you are done modifying your Set, touch the back arrow and then touch Settings.  You need to set the Rotate Interval to either one or five minutes, and make sure there is a check mark next to the option Delay on Sleep.  (The reason you have to set such a short rotation for your wallpaper is this: just as soon as you turn your Kindle’s screen off, the wallpaper defaults right back to those stock images (the cursed pens, again).  The lower you set the rotation value, the quicker your images will “rotate” to replace Amazon’s – the quicker, the better!  If you do not want to have your wallpaper changing images every minute (or whatever value you chose), only select one picture for your Wallpaper Set.  That way, you will only ever see that one image.)

While you can never completely avoid the built-in Amazon wallpaper, Rotating Wallpaper will help you avoid those ever-present pens as much as physically possible.  Until Amazon decides to allow their customers’ more options when it comes to customizing their Kindle Fire, this way will have to suffice.  Amazon’s wallpaper, while annoying, is not insurmountable, making this issue less of an operational concern, and more operator choice.

**Disclaimer:  I am not encouraging readers to side-load or root their devices, only sharing information on a theoretical level.  What someone does with this information is completely up to them.

So I’m A Storage Junkie…Your Point?

I will admit the fact that the Kindle Fire did not come with an external memory card slot was, initially, a concern for me.  While I did not need my tablet to contain more than eight Gigabytes of storage space, the option to add more later was quite appealing.  In fact, the lack of optional storage was almost a deal breaker for me.

Why did I decide to go with the Kindle anyways?  Simple: I stopped and thought about it objectively.  What would I be putting on my Fire that would require so much space?  My music is hosted in the cloud, and my movies can always be compressed to save room and unzipped whenever I wish to watch them (which is not that often). That left documents and apps, and would I really put that many apps on my tablet?

When I look at the amount of storage space I have left on my Kindle, I see that I have well over a Gigabyte’s worth of room left – and I have not even compressed any of my videos yet!  I had been worrying for nothing.  A word (or two) of advice to anyone else out there stressing over storage inadequacy issues: you can either compress your files (a bit tedious, as you have to make sure there is enough room on the device to unzip the files to view them, and you have to repeat this process every time you wish to view said files) or store them in the cloud.  You can keep your movies, videos, pictures, and documents in Amazon’s cloud service, and there are several other websites who can offer you those same options (Google, Sugar Sync, Dropbox, and Mozy, to name a few).  Not having an external memory slot is not an operational concern for the Kindle – just operator complaint.

So You Think You Need A Tablet…

I had been interested in purchasing a tablet long before I eventually did – a combination of too many hours logged watching them in action on the television, and the few opportunities I had to interact with the tablets my father brought home from work.  The question I noticed popping up among consumers the most when conducting my research on various tablets was the following: how do you decide with tablet is the right one?  Should the decision be based on operating system? Brand? Price? Some combination of all three?

To answer this question, I first needed to ask myself what, exactly, I was planning on using my tablet for.  First off, I needed a tablet with an operating system capable of communicating with at least one of my other portable devices – my smart phone, which uses Android 2.3, or my laptop, which is running OS X and occasionally Windows 7.  The tablets I looked at offered several different options in operating systems (OS): Android, HP, iOS, and Blackberry’s OS were the major choices.  Narrowing down those options was not as difficult as I thought it would be: the HP Touchpad is no longer sold, I would not touch a Blackberry device with a ten-foot pole, and the iPad’s iOS is non-cooperative with every OS except its own – leaving Android as the only viable option.  With the Android OS, I could sync my applications across mobile devices – and find apps that could integrate with my laptop as well.

What else was important to me in a tablet?  I needed it to have at least eight Gigabytes of storage, to be WiFi capable, and to have a screen size of no more than eight inches.  This narrowed my choices down even further, leaving me to choose between the Samsung Galaxy, the Nook Touch, the Vizio Tablet, and the Kindle Fire.  Of course, this list did not encompass all of the tablets (that met those qualifications) in their totality – they are simply the ones I had given the most thought about out of that larger number.  I had no desire to purchase an “off brand” tablet and run the risk of disappointment with its quality.  As I was less than eager to spend $380 on a tablet, the Galaxy was out of the running.  The Vizio tablet had a slower CPU than both the Touch and Fire (only one Gigahertz, whereas Nook and Kindle are both Dual Core), and was only using Android 2.3 instead of 3.0 (2.3 was designed for phones, and 3.0 was designed for tablets).  The Vizio tablet’s less than impressive specifications made the decision to not purchase it an easy one.

I decided to go with the Kindle Fire over the Nook Touch for two major reasons: first, the Fire is $50 cheaper than the Nook Touch; second, the Touch is now being manufactured without the option of side-loading being available to the customer.  (Side-loading is when you download the .apk file of an app – the ‘install’ file, as it were – and send it to the device of your choice.  You then boot up the application on said device and install it from there, as opposed to using an app store/marketplace.  Since the Kindle Fire uses Amazon’s App store instead of Android’s, it does not have access to every app that the Android marketplace does.  Should you want to use an app that Amazon does not yet have access to, you have the choice of side-loading and installing it that way.)  I have never been fond of having my options limited, and so decided to go with the tablet with more user freedom.  Decision made, I ordered the Kindle Fire off of Amazon’s website, also purchasing a case and screen protectors to go with it.  Upon receiving it in the mail, I immediately got it up and running and started to customize it to fit my needs.  I definitely made the correct choice – I love my Kindle Fire!

**Disclaimer:  I am not encouraging readers to side-load or root their devices, only sharing information on a theoretical level.  What someone does with this information is completely up to them.

It’s All About Me…With The New Google Search Option, That Is

In searching for a topic about which to blog this evening, I decided to try my luck with the Google search engine.  After opening my web browser to Google’s home address, I noticed that there was a message posted underneath the search bar, informing Google users of the availability of the new Search plus Your World feature.  Curious, I clicked on the informational link attached to the message, eager to know about any new feature my favorite search engine had rolled out.  Search plus Your World is a personalized search option available to Google Plus users, which integrates the content from your Plus circles with the content found in a regular search.  For example, I typed in the word “photos” into the search bar.  The first thing on the page were photos posted by my friends, family, and my self, followed by the expected results of my search – links to Flicker, an advertisement for Walgreens, and so on.  In addition to this, the right hand side of the screen featured a Google map of my search, displaying locations that had something to do with the word “photos”: selling them, developing them, etc.  Below that a section titled “People and Pages on Google+” featured Google+ members that had posted about “photos” on their Plus account – now available for easy perusal to the Google user.

Needless to say, I had a new “toy” to play with for the better part of half an hour.  Just when I think that Google could not possibly get anymore convenient and exciting to use, they give me a new feature to enjoy!  By the way, if you have not read it, yesterday’s post was all about the ISS (International Space Station) and my desire to see it from my own backyard – not just via NASA’s website.  During my “research” into Search plus Your World, I came across an Android app that is supposed to detect when the space station is overhead!  I immediately downloaded it to my phone, and I cannot wait to try it out and see if it works.  If you are curious about this app as well (or just like downloading apps for the sake of downloading apps), it is called ISS Detector by RunaR.  It is available for download from this link to the Android Marketplace website, or by typing “ISS Detector” into your marketplace search bar on your phone – it should be the first result posted.  Happy hunting, fellow stargazers!

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