The slickest, easiest way to currently get the answer to when will you be load shed on a particular day is by downloading the quite frankly well written local load shedding schedule app, EskomSePush. (We will all agree to look past the juvenile joke name, okay?)
Written by Dan Wells and Herman Maritz a handful of years ago, EskomSePush is an extremely user friendly tool that does little more than ask you to download and install the app on your phone, click on the plus button to bring up the location search, and then select the location that you are interested in. The resulting screen then gives you a nice concise view of what your load shedding schedule looks like (across any of Eskom’s seemingly limitless stages) for any particular upcoming day.
The app is easy to read, sends warning push notifications when needed, and is simple enough that most people should get the hang of it. For my part, it works like a charm and its load shedding reporting has yet to fail me, meaning that our rolling blackouts by another name still hasn’t caught me with my pants around my ankles and no torch in sight.
I’ve mentioned that I’ve been running a XBMC (Kodi) media server at my house for quite some time now, and in fact, I just upgraded to the relatively recently renamed Kodi version of this venerable media server a couple of days ago.
Now although a wireless keyboard and mouse works perfectly fine for controlling the Kodi media server, sometimes you don’t really want to sit will all that bulk lying about your coffee table (not that I have one mind you), which is exactly where the cleverness of remote control apps come into play.
Sadly, the first iteration of the the official XBMC remote control Android app wasn’t a particularly well written, or well supported venture, meaning that the need and thus door for good apps was there – resulting in quite a few being written by enterprising individuals. Indeed, one of the standouts is/was Tolriq’s Yatse XBMC Remote, a fine piece of app development in its own right.
However, the newly refreshed Kodi team saw the lack of love for the official Android remote app and approached developer Synced Synapse with the request for their Kore remote app to become the Kodi project’s new official remote control app – and after downloading and playing with it for a day I can see why!
From the official download page, the Kore team describes the app as:
“Kore is a simple, easy to use and beautiful Kodi / XBMC remote that lets you control your media center from your Android device.
With Kore you can:
This week has been a little frustrating in terms of working from home (and putting up blog posts on time) – thanks to a fault on Telkom’s side, my home ADSL suddenly wasn’t working any more (my modem was reporting a DSL connection failure, or rather, no DSL connection at all), starting Monday evening and finally being resolved late morning Thursday!
This isn’t a particularly great thing if you have fashioned a little work office in your braai room like I have, and because I haven’t really planned for this contingency, other than my Vodacom mobile data on my phone contract, I didn’t exactly have a backup Internet connection to fall back on.
(Luckily Wednesday I needed to be in office for my weekly meeting – hello Frogfoot fibre network in the Westlake Business Park. So, so fast…)
Of course, being a software developer means that I can do the majority of my development work offline anyway, so it’s not like my work world paused or anything like that for the duration of this week – though I have to say it was rather nice to not be able to respond for a bit to all the support queries and calls for changes that come into my inbox on a daily basis. (I’m currently the only development resource in the company. In other words, I have to do pretty much everything.)
Calls to Telkom’s call centre for support didn’t get me anywhere (due to the loadshedding there are a lot of confused old people and broken modems flooding into the support system at the moment), so in the end I grabbed the Telkom Android app off the Google Play platform and used that to log a fault.
A day and a half later, I got a phone call to get more details about the issue, and the next day I got a phone call from a technician asking me if everything was working now. I glanced over at the modem, and true as Bob, both the DSL and Internet lights on my old Mega 105WR router were now happily flashing along.
(Though if this was a simple line re-synch or whatever they did remotely, it bothers me a little that they haven’t automated this process yet. Surely it can’t be hard to get people to log a fault in a particular way, those instances then being picked up by a monitoring system and automatically sorted out? Or at least, if it is already an automated system, then why does it take so long? Or am I just being silly at this point?)
Anyway, although not fast, the service was good, so I have to commend Telkom on that.
Thanks to the whole RICA process, it should finally be arriving on Tuesday. A little too late to be of actual use, but at least now I’ll be ready for next time! :)
Having recently won the newly released Afrihost-branded Huawei Mobile Access Point (MiFi) device bundled with a nice fat wad of data, I’ve taken to the realm of mobile internet access like a fish to water, given that the average speed achieved on this channel is between 5 and 10 mbps, far better than the 1 mbps I sit with on my uncapped Telkom/Afrihost line.
However, I now sit with a new problem – how do I get my Samsung GT-S5830 Galaxy Ace Android phone and my Proline Rockchip QPAD9700 Android tablet to choose the Afrihost MiFi access point ahead of the usual home WiFi connection if both are available?
I obviously don’t want to “forget” the home network, as the MiFi device isn’t always turned on, meaning that I had to turn to Google to try and find the answer. As it turns out, there doesn’t appear to currently be a native Android way of ordering access points in terms of priority – meaning a trip to Google Play to find a 3rd party app that can do this for us was in order.
A quick search yielded WiFi Connection Manager, a not particularly pretty but serviceable app that does exactly what it’s name says – it allows you to manage your WiFi connections.
Most important of all, it has a item buried in the context menu entitled “Arrange Network Priority”, exactly what I was looking for. A simple matter of enabling the WiFi, dragging and dropping the networks in the required priority, and problem solved.
As easy as that! :)
Nowadays just about everything can be done online, and that includes shopping around for a new car. It used to take weekends of driving up and down Voortrekker road and stopping in at all the little car dealerships in the hope of spotting a) something that appeals to me and b) a decent enough bargain, and considering the fact that in my youth I wrote off three cars, then you can understand just how much time was wasted trying to source a replacement!
Anyway, the point is that in recent years plenty of credible online car search portals have popped up here in South Africa, one of the better ones being Cars.co.za, a comprehensive search portal that allows you to search and browse through both new and second hand cars (and bikes), get car finance quotes, offers both industry and car related news articles, and even throws in a community forum while it’s at it!
Having already previously joined the explosive mobile movement through the release of their iOS Cars.co.za app for iPhone and iPad, they’ve now gone and released something for us Android-lovers out there: the very first Cars.co.za Android mobile app!
Developed by South African mobile application development house Mushroom Cloud, the Cars.co.za Android App is ultra slick and packed to the brim with features, all of which is geared to allowing you the best car browsing experience possible, anytime, anywhere.
I tested the app on both my Samsung Galaxy Ace GT-S5830 phone and Proline Smart AK888-13 9.7″ tablet and was pleased to find that the App responded well to both form factors as well as all orientations. It renders smoothly, it’s search functionality is rather comprehensive (never mind all the other added features like news, multi-image displays, reviews, and various tools), and all in all I thought it to be a really good tool and certainly one I could see myself making use of when I eventually need to start thinking about swapping my Getz out for something else.
So definitely a job well done by the Cars.co.za team.
(Please note that this is a Sponsored Post, placed via the MyScoop blog advertising network.)
Now armed with a bigger real estate thanks to my 9.7 inch Proline Jellybean Android Tablet (which Google says identifies as a Rockchip QPAD9700), reading digital comic books now becomes a more viable, and more importantly, more enjoyable reality.
But what to read? Well, thanks to Comixology, legally purchasing comic books is now a pretty simple affair, and their excellent guided view makes it hard to argue against what is probably king of the digital comic book experience right now. With such a great platform it is no wonder that both the Big Two approached them for their own distinctive online digital comics presence, meaning that you shouldn’t be alarmed when after installing the Comixology app, the DC Comics app, and the Marvel Comics app, you notice the interface pretty much exactly the same!
The ability to search through various filters, the animated, panel-by-panel guided view, the offline storage, and ease of purchase really makes Comixology a sure fire hit.
Of course, what to do if you buddy hands you a flash drive full of bundled .cbz and .cbr comic book scans? Well in the past I was rather fond of the ACV (A Comic Viewer) app, but have since switched to the far superior and extraordinarily good Komik android app.
Komik does an excellent job of managing a file library, dual page layouts, easy navigation and a clever zoom mechanism, making it one of the best comic/manga viewer currently in the market. Highly recommended.
So that should just about cover it when it comes to how to enjoy comic books on your shiny new Android tablet then!
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Although it wasn’t the original plan, Chantelle and I ended up spending the whole of last night locked in a deadly duel of Words with Friends, the Android version of the hit game from Zynga (the guys behind the super successful Farmville) which we had finally gotten around to installing and giving a go, Chantelle on her small Samsung Galaxy Ace phone and me on my Proline AK888-13 9.7 inch tablet.
First off, it is important to note that this is for all intent Scrabble on your mobile phone, the hook here being of course the fact that you play matches against someone remotely, each playing their turn and then patiently waiting until a push notification arrives to tell you that it is now your turn, before promptly showing you the soul crushing score that your opponent just managed to land by covering a combination of triple letter and double word score tiles! (Seriously, Chantelle made me cry more than once!)
Anyway, the interface I have to say is pretty slick and fairly intuitive, though it would have been nice to receive a help tutorial or run through on first load, just to get you up and running. As it is, we took a few minutes to figure out the interface, but once we got the hang of it and got our Facebook accounts hooked up, it was go time!
Like I said, if you’ve played Scrabble then you’ll know how the game operates. Given 7 tiles a turn, you’re tasked with coming up with a word using those letters that somehow links onto a letter already present on the board, with each tile having a value which in turn determines how many points you receive after placing your word. It’s pretty addictive and a good test of your vocabulary, especially when you begin to play around with trying to maximize your points by spreading your word over special bonus points tiles.
To win you basically have to either play out before you opponent (and score more than them), or you need to play until neither party can put down a word for three turns in a row, which in that case means that the player with the higher score wins.
The remote play function means that you can tackle multiple games against different opponents at once and if that isn’t enough to keep you busy, there’s even a in-game text chat function which allows you to taunt or congratulate your opponent.
The free version of the App is of course advertising funded which does get a little bit in the way, though you could of course purchase the upgrade to make the pesky ads go away. Also, I see if you feel like cheating a little there are some ‘abilities’ that you can purchase using real money, though to be honest they seem more like a crutch than anything else to me. Not cool if you’re using one of these in order to gain the upper hand!
Overall I have to say I quite enjoy Words with Friends. The form factor works well on both a phone or tablet screen and as a whole, the package is really well put together. Well worth it in other words.
(And for the record, I came back with my last tile to wipe out a huge deficit and sneak the win right at the end, right out from under Chantelle’s nose!)
One of the most useful (and most used) apps on my Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Ace is UltraChron Stopwatch Lite, developed by TheSpinningHead. What it is, is a fantastically easy to use, responsive stopwatch and timer application.
Although perhaps a little garish in design, the stopwatch and timers are very configurable, features a voice to count down those important bits, the ability to capture lap times and create timed histories thanks to its editable descriptions. It also features persistent notifications and has the ability to wake the phone, meaning that you don’t have to worry about losing your timer or stopwatch after your screen lock saver kicks in!
Very nice, very easy to use, and most importantly of all, works damn well, making it well worth your while to install on your device. (Works a charm in the kitchen for cooking purposes!)
Anyway, search for UltraChron in the market place to download and install!
Thanks must go out to developer Nikolay Ananiev for his useful Android app, Tiny Flashlight + LED. This application essentially turns your phone into a torch, making use of the camera’s build in LED light that is normally only used by the camera as a flash. As you can well imagine, the LED is pretty bright, meaning that I can now safely navigate my way to the bedroom, avoiding dogs, cats and sleeping wife, with nothing more than my Samsung Galaxy Ace in hand!
Outside of the LED light functionality, it also makes use of the screen as a light source, and with this one gives you a variety of color and effect options, which could prove to be useful say in an emergency situation.
Finally, the last thing about this app which is particularly great is that it comes with the ability to create a widget, meaning that you can place a torch on and off button right there on your desktop! Very, very useful.
Certainly one of my favourite apps installed on my phone, and one well worth grabbing! Oh, and did I mention it is free? :)
Search for Tiny Flashlight in the market place to download and install!