Essential Android Apps, 3 Months Later

Android Almost 3 months ago, I wrote about the Android applications that I found myself coming depend on.  With the release of paid applications on the Android Market, the quality of products has been rising and I’ve found that I’ve adjusted my must have list a little.

Apps I still use

Exchange by TouchDown

I still love this for my corporate Exchange access.  NitroDesk is doing a great job of adding new features and fixing bugs when they crop up.  In January I was still using version 1.  Since then, they’ve come out with v 2.0 which including, among many other things, push support.  Currently I am beta testing a new version which I am uncertain whether or not I can talk specifically about, just suffice it to say the new big-ticket item is very nice.

The NitroDesk support continues to be superior with most responses coming within a few hours at the most.  These guys simply get it.  I have checked out a couple of other Exchange clients and they just don’t come close.

 The Weather Channel

Not much to say about this one.  They have had a few updates, but nothing new and exciting, still the app simply works and it works well.  Sometimes, if it aint broke, you don’t fix it.

Quickpedia

I find myself struggling to remember details about topics that crop in conversations all of the time.  Quickpedia gives me what I consider to be the best mobile UI wrapper around the content from Wikipedia available.   Whether I’m looking up the discography for a band, or reading up on the science behind natural harmonics on your guitar, the information is formatted to look good on a mobile device including grouping the information by section allowing you to see a quick overview of the the types of information available.

Rings Extended

In my previous post, this was an honorable mention.  I suppose that was due to the fact that you almost never see this application.  The truth; however, is that you always use it.  It replaces the standard ringtone picker application allowing you to customize rings by using built-in tones or sounds, music or tracks on your SD card.

New Additions

Steel

The built in web browser is very nice; however there are a few features that it simply doesn’t have yet.  While the next version of Android (1.5, cupcake, whatever) may address them, Steel fills the gap in the interim.  Steel gives you full screen browsing, auto rotation when you turn your phone sideways, touch zooming, flip navigation between windows and a soft (on-screen) keyboard.

Steel uses the base Webkit engine that the built in browser uses, it simply adds a UI on top of it that should have been included in the first place.

SplashID

The folks at Splash Data have been making password management that syncs desktop with mobile for a while now.  They have versions for most popular mobile platforms including Android, WinMo, iPhone, Palm, Blackberry and Symbian Series 60.  For years I’ve enjoyed having my passwords stored in a secure environment on my desktop and my mobile device (formerly on WinMo) and now that SplashID has an Android client, I’m once again feeling safe 🙂

Useful Switchers

This is a quick-toggle application for many of the frequently used system settings.  It allows you with a click to toggle WiFi, Bluetooth, Auto Sync, GPS and more.  This little app is fast, and has a great looking, simple to understand interface.

Gone Missing

These are applications that were on my original list but have since lost their place in my my device for various reasons.

aTrackDog

This was the only way to really keep apps up to date without manually searching them out.  It was a great app, but since RC33 was released with the automatic updates listed in the market, my downloads section, it became redundant.

I see now that they have added some features to make it appealing again, including updates to non-market applications and a few other features.  I may give this another try, but for the moment it’s not on my device.

Power Manager

This app was designed really well.  It gives quick access to some of the settings that affect your battery life, such as WiFi, GPS and brightness.  A very nice features is the automatic triggers which will change settings to a certain profile.  For example, if your battery gets down below 30%, it may turn off GPS and WiFi.

Why did I get rid of it?  3 reasons:

  1. The main reason is that the developer changed it to a 3 day trial which you could upgrade to the full version.  He did this without adequate warning (I simply updated since my marketplace told me one was available) and did not leave the original free version available.  While it is only $0.99, and I would have likely paid for it, the manner in which it was done did not sit well with me.
  2. All of the quick settings toggles (and many more) are now available from Useful Switchers.
  3. I rarely let my phone get below the 30% threshold that I had set for turning off WiFi.

While it sounds like he may have made the free version available on his website (instead of the market place)

Conclusion

This is not an exhaustive list of the applications I have installed and use, but they are the apps that, if I had to do a hard reset, I’d likely install right away.  That says a lot about them regarding their usefulness and the way the work their way into your day-to-day routine.

If you have some that you think are essential, questions about any of these apps or criticism about some of my choices (please back it up!) please leave a comment!

My Adventures Installing mono 2.0 on CentOS 4 to work with apache via mod_mono

Apparently the good folks over at the mono project decided to discontinue binary packages for the Red Hat line of linux distributions.  It’s a shame in a way, there are a lot of those installation out there, so it would be nice to keep things updated through yum or apt-install or rhupdate, etc..

On the up side, installing from source has never been easier.  In the past I have went through many hours of trying to get the right versions of different libraries that were needed.  With the official release of 2.0 it seems much better.  I thought I would share the steps that I went through.

Disclaimer: This worked on a fairly fresh install of CentOS 4.7.  I have not tried it on 5.x, nor on any other flavor of linux (SUSE, Ubuntu, etc..) so your mileage may vary.

At the time of the install (and this writing) the current mono stable version is 2.0.1 so all references will be to that version.  Here are the steps that I went through.

Preparation

Always be prepared – Boy Scouts motto…

In rooting around the web I did find a few helpful pointers.  First, make sure you have gcc installed.  Now this is one of those duh pieces of information, but in the fairness of completeness I thought I would mention it. (Note: If you do not have gcc or bison, install them! Credit The_Assimilator’s comment)

# yum install gcc-c++
# yum install bison
Next I installed the httpd-devel package.  I had read (will find the link later) that it helps some of the installation down the line.  In my case I just use yum to install it. (Note:  httpd-devel package is required by the mod_mono compile if apxs (Apache Extension Tool) is not on your machine. credit to The_Assimilator’s comment)
yum install httpd-devel

You may also require the glib-2.0 libraries (thanks to Michael Walsh for that bit).  If you receive the error “Package glib-2.0 was not found in the pkg-config search path” you can install it via yum as well.

yum install glib2-devel

The Main Dance

Next comes the meat of the installation.  First, I downloaded the necessary source packages.  I simply used wget to snag the core mono package, xsp (mono web server) and mod_mono (apache integration).

wget http://ftp.novell.com/pub/mono/sources/mono/mono-2.0.1.tar.bz2
wget http://ftp.novell.com/pub/mono/sources/xsp/xsp-2.0.tar.bz2
wget http://ftp.novell.com/pub/mono/sources/mod_mono/mod_mono-2.0.tar.bz2

Next we install the mono core

tar -vxjf mono-2.0.1.tar.bz2
cd mono-2.0.1
./configure
make
make install
cd ..

Next comes xsp

tar -vxjf xsp-2.0.tar.bz
cd xsp-2.0
./configure
make
make install
cd ..

At this point I recevied an error (I believe it was in the make process) that the compiler could not find the file dotnet.pc.  I found that it was indeed on my system so I simply had to export the path and then finsih the compile.

export PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/usr/local/lib/pkgconfig
make
make install
cd..

Note: Make sure the file dotnet.pc is in that location.  If not, adjust the path above.

Finally we install mod_mono

tar -vxjf mod_mono-2.0.tar.bz2
cd mod_mono-2.0
./configure
make
make install

There, easy huh?

Configuration

You may want to verify a few thigns to make sure the configuration is ready to rock.  In my case, I am keeping the mono configuration in a separate file for sanity sake.  You can do that or put it all in your httpd.conf, it’s up to you.

<IfModule !mod_mono.c>
    LoadModule mono_module /usr/lib/httpd/modules/mod_mono.so
    AddType application/x-asp-net .aspx
    AddType application/x-asp-net .asmx
    AddType application/x-asp-net .ashx
    AddType application/x-asp-net .asax
    AddType application/x-asp-net .ascx
    AddType application/x-asp-net .soap
    AddType application/x-asp-net .rem
    AddType application/x-asp-net .axd
    AddType application/x-asp-net .cs
    AddType application/x-asp-net .config
    AddType application/x-asp-net .Config
    AddType application/x-asp-net .dll
    DirectoryIndex index.aspx
    DirectoryIndex Default.aspx
    DirectoryIndex default.aspx
</IfModule>
That was it.  I hope that helps!