Monday, December 31, 2012

Tracking others on your phone

When you go out to meet your friends at a unfamiliar place, you would like to find out exactly where is your friend. When you go out with your friend on a trip, you may find yourself separated from your friend and wish to find out exactly where is your friend. You may be a parent trying to find out where is your child. Instead of calling the other person/child, wouldn't it be good to just send a SMS and get the location of the other person?

There were just this kind of app that could do just this. All you need is just a map and the other person install the app with the understanding that they could be tracked by you. Alternatively, you can use an app to send SMS of your location to your friend or parent. However, that is not interactive. You need to actively send the SMS or set a constant schedule to send it. Thus, the on-demand-automatic-reply way is still the best.

One example of such app is "Wheres my Droid" by Alienman Tech. This app can also be used as a Android finder.

The app have the ability to intercept SMS to your Messaging. When your friend/parent send a code word, it can read the SMS and respond by automatic reply with a GPS location location. The recipient can then use a map app to display the location. This is best used when the tracked does not have a data plan or is in a place without mobile data.

The tracked person can actually set who can get the automatic respond. A list of phone numbers can be set so that only the keyword from this list of phones can get the reply.

Obviously, parents might want to lock the program with a passkey so that the child is not able to change the settings. I usually suggest to get the child's consent instead of enforcing it against their wish. This feature is also good when your phone is in stranger's possession (lost).

The app has other features that could prove useful. However, that is beyond the scope of this post.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Android Memory

As time goes along, we tends to load a lot of apps in our Android. At times, you will suddenly gets message "out of memory". Even with the addition of 16GB of sd card, it still keep popping up the same message. What is the problem?

Actually, there are four types of memory that is available in Android.

1. Phone Ram. This is the place where all your apps run.
2. Phone Rom. This is the default place where your apps are stored.
3. SD Card Ram. This is the additional memory where apps are stored and some times use for running.
4. SIM card memory. This is generally used for phone number storage.

Rams are essentially the place where your program is run. Unfortunately, unlike PC and Laptop, this area of memory is not user expandable. Older phones generally have much smaller Phone Ram. This will prevent some apps from running.

Even with plenty of Ram, you will still find "out of memory" message appearing when you try to install apps. This is largely due to the fact that all programs has to be stored in Phone Rom. Despite the fact that in Android 2.2 (Froyo) onward, many apps can be stored in SD Card. However, it still uses some Phone Rom to register its presence. That is to say, every program uses some memory in Phone Rom. New phones has now greatly increased this memory. While older phones generally have much less. The number of app that could be installed is thus limited by this memory. Again this memory is not user expandable.

SD Card memory are generally used to store photos. Many apps uses SD card to store their app data. It is good to install as much memory as possible. Even when the hand phone dies, your data will not be lost. Obviously if your SD Card is damaged, everything goes with it. It is always good to save the data in SD card to computer.

SIM card are generally not use for Apps. It is the place to store phone numbers. However, most phone also stores the phone numbers in Phone Rom. It ends up that you may get 2 same number appearing in phone list. Always try to store phone numbers in SIM card. Should you change the hand phone, your phone number will not be lost. Generally, newly added numbers usually get stored in Phone Rom.

SIM card memory does not have the facility to store other phone number related information than the Phone Rom. You should weight your preference as to what you want to do with the number. If you are the type that stores much more information than just phone numbers, then you should store it in Phone Ram. You should always keep a copy of your client information in PC so that you could transfer the information to new phones.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Voice Navigation on OsmAnd

For a direction idiot like me, having a navigation aid is a must in order not to get lost even in my own country.  I have evaluated quite a number of navigation app in Android and have selected OsmAnd for this purpose. It is free and its voice navigation guide is quite acceptable.

The very first thing you need to do is to get a map. Obviously, if you have data plan, it should not be a problem at all. However, I would recommend a offline map as you may end up in places without data connection. The bad side of offline maps is that you would not be able to get the latest traffic condition. If you are rushing for time, offline maps will not be suitable. If you are planning a trip that you know and the traffic condition is no a concern, this is one application that is suitable.

OsmAnd allows you to download maps for offline use. It obtains map from OpenStreeMap. Just go to Settings, Offline data (download) and download the country in which you will be travelling.

In settings, click on "Navigation". Choose the mode of travel. You may have to repeat the setting if you need to travel by more than one mode. Under "Navigation service", make sure you choose "OsmAnd (offline)". Under "Voice Guidance", choose "en-tts". If you do not see a tts available, then click "install more" and follow the instruction to download tts.

Go back to maps view. You just need to scroll the map to the destination point and then point and hold on the spot till the map shows a location popup. You can click on the "x" mark to close it if you choose wrongly. Click on the popup itself will popup another menu. There are a number of choices. If you are simply going to a single place then click "Direction to here". The route will be plotted for you and a voice will tell you how far is the distance.

When you start to go along the planned route, it will tell you how far before you need to make the next turn. At the point of turning, it will again tell you to make the turn. On experience, the instruction to make the turn may come too late. It is good to listen to the anticipated turn and watch out for the turn rather than wait for the actual turn instruction.

If you are going to multiple places in a fixed order or you are actually planning a route of travel (for example a cycling route), you should plot the route in a route planner like Export the route into OsmAnd in a directory called "tracks" (create one if it hasn't exist). On OsmAnd, press "menu" then "Directions". Choose the mode of travel then click "GPX route". You can then choose the route you downloaded. Click on "Pass along entire track". Click "Reverse GPX direction" if you are returning from the destination. Proceed to the starting point and the voice guidance will start.

If you missed a turn, the navigation system will re-plot a route for you. If you are using the plotted route, it will plan a new route to the nearest point to your predefined route.

One nice thing is that if you happened to stop and start again on the route, it will repeat the instruction to the next turn. It will also warn you if the GPS is lost.

I do experience silence during navigation. You may need to activate the map screen and click "menu", "Where am I?" to get back to the navigation. Wait till the gps fix is done and it will continue the navigation.