Posts Tagged Android

Taking Notes

Most people reading this blog carry around a computer every day, whether its a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Yet many of us still reach for paper and pen when it’s time to take notes.

For many of us, it’s because pen and paper are what we’re familiar with, and we know how they work. There’s a bunch of note-taking apps out there, and they don’t all work the same, or even similarly in many cases.

I recently decided that I was going to try to take notes in a digital format whenever possible and went on an adventure to see which of the most popular apps fit my needs. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted when I started, and I’ve spent a few days trying to find an app that was just the right fit for me.

I put together a few apps I found and a list of the features that I directly compared between them below, and hopefully it helps someone in the same position that I’m in decide which works best for them:

OneNote 2016 Evernote Bear Turtl Apple Notes
Publisher Microsoft Evernote Shiny Frog Lyon Bros Apple
Price Free Free-$7.99/mo Free-$1.49/mo Free Free
Platforms Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android, Web Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Web Mac, iPad, iPhone Windows, Mac, Linux, Android Mac, iPad, iPhone
Cloud Sync Yes, via OneDrive Yes, via Evernote Yes, via CloudKit (Subscription only) Yes Yes, via iCloud/CloudKit
Self-hosted sync option No No No Yes No
Offline access Yes Paid plans only Yes Yes Yes
Local storage option No Yes No No Yes
Organization Notebooks, Sections, Pages Notebooks, Notes Notes, Hashtags Boards, Notes Folders, Notes
File attachments within notes Yes Yes Images and photos only Yes No
OCR within attachments Partial Yes N/A No No
Encryption Yes, per section Yes, selected portions of notes No Yes Yes, per note
Encryption Strength AES-256 AES-128 N/A AES-256 AES-128
Encrypts media within notes Yes No N/A Yes Yes
Web Clipping Yes Yes No No No
Sharing Yes Paid plans only No Yes No
Drawing/Write anywhere Yes Mobile apps only No No No
Markdown support No Partial, as typing shortcuts Yes Yes No
Language syntax highlighting No No Yes No No
Note history No With paid plan only No No No
Import options Print to OneNote, Import from Evernote zip file Apple Notes, Evernote, DayOne, Vesper, Ulysses None ENEX
Export options OneNote, Word, PDF, XPS, mht ENEX, HTML HTML, PDF, DOCX, MD, JPG None PDF

There are a lot more options out there than just these. In fact, there’s a whole Wikipedia page here.

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Set up an encrypted VPN using DD-WRT

DD-WRT is feature-rich alternative firmware for a large number of home router models. It adds a wonderful array of new features, VPN being one of them. This walkthrough will show you how to quickly and easily configure a PPTP VPN server on your DD-WRT-powered router, so you can connect to your home network from afar, create a secure tunnel so you can safely use a public Wifi point with your laptop, or secure your iOS or Android device.

Setting up the VPN Server

So here’s how to get started. First, you’ll need a build of DD-WRT supported by your router which includes the VPN software. If you’re doing this on an Internet connection which has an IP address that changes periodically (i.e. residential), you’ll likely want a Free DynDNS hostname to point to your IP address. You’ll also need a basic familiarity of networking.

For the remainder of this guide, I will assume your router’s internal (LAN) IP address is 192.168.1.1.

Start by going to http://192.168.1.1 and login to your router’s administration panel.

Go to Services > VPN and set PPTP Server to enable. After doing that, a few new options will appear. The only ones you need to set are Server IP, Client IP(s), and CHAP Secrets. Set them as follows:

Server IP: You can set this to your router’s LAN IP, i.e. 192.168.1.1

Client IPs: Set this to an IP range OUTSIDE your DHCP range (See Setup > Basic Setup to figure your DHCP range) A good example value would be 192.168.1.200-250 for clients to receive addresses within that range.

CHAP Secrets: This is the username/password combinations for your VPN clients. Format is:
username*password*
Example:
myname * mypassword *

Neither the username nor password can contain spaces, and must be all-lowercase.

You’re done with this page; Click Apply Settings.

Now go to Security > VPN Passthrough and make sure PPTP is set to Enabled. Click Apply Settings if you had to change the setting.

You should now be able to connect to your VPN using your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer by setting up a PPTP connection to your public (WAN) IP or hostname.

Troubleshooting

Can’t get connected? First, try setting up your connection to the router itself, using the LAN IP (192.168.1.1). If that works, then the VPN server is set up correctly; the problem is likely on the WAN side. Keep reading for suggestions. If you weren’t able to get connected, go back to the top and double-check your settings.

iOS-Specific changes

You may need to make the following settings adjustment if you are having trouble connecting specifically from your iOS device running iOS 4.3 or above. Go to Administration > Commands and paste the following in the box. Click Save Startup.

#!/bin/sh
echo "nopcomp" >> /tmp/pptpd/options.pptpd
echo "noaccomp" >> /tmp/pptpd/options.pptpd
kill `ps | grep pptp | cut -d ' ' -f 1`
pptpd -c /tmp/pptpd/pptpd.conf -o /tmp/pptpd/options.pptpd

(Source: DD-WRT Wiki)

If you can connect from the LAN side, but are still having trouble connecting from the WAN side, it’s likely your ISP or your gateway device (modem) is blocking the needed GRE protocol or the needed PPTP port or traffic. Contact your ISP for further assistance.

Do you have any experience or tips to share regarding VPN connections to a DD-WRT-powered router, or any suggestions in addition to the above? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. Thank you!

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Google Music vs iTunes Match

Google and Apple each brought their own services which allow users to upload their music library and stream it to their devices in the form of Google Music and iTunes Match, respectively. But how do those services compare?

Let’s take a side-by-side comparative look at some of the features:

FeatureGoogle MusiciTunes Match
Number of songs20,000 songs not purchased from Android Market25,000 songs not purchased from iTunes
PriceFree$25/yr
Supported devicesWorks on common browsers on Win / Mac / Linux / Android / iOS (1)Works on Win / Mac running iTunes; iOS devices supporting iCloud
SyncAutomatically sync music to Google Music using Win / Mac / Linux clientAutomatically sync music to iTunes Match using iTunes
Sync SelectionSelect which songs to upload using sync clientAll songs from iTunes library are synchronized.
Local StorageSave music to your Win / Mac / Linux / Android device for offline playbackSave music to your Win / Mac / iOS device for offline playback
UploadingEvery song must be uploadedMatching is performed prior to upload; Only unmatched songs are uploaded
Supported file formatsMp3, AAC (m4a), wma, flac, ogg (source)Same as iTunes
Excluded formatsNone24-bit audio; Bitrates under 96 kbps; File over 200MB (source)

(1) Although Google Music is reported to work on iOS devices, I can confirm it does work on iOS (iPhone), but only as the desktop site (which is clunky and requires zooming on an iPhone screen). The mobile site still shows I have no music in my library.

As you can see, Google Music is aimed at the Android crowd, while iTunes Match is aimed at the iOS crowd. However, a few of the major points in Google Music’s favor that I see are that it supports playback from a web browser, has a Linux client, and is free.

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How to import Android phone contacts to Gmail contacts

If you set up your Google account using your Android phone, or you added contacts to your phone but didn’t set them as Google account contacts, you will find they’re not synced to your Google account. This means that they’re not available as contacts when composing messages, and worse, you’re not using your Google account as a backup in case your phone is lost or damaged, or you swap phones.

You can easily fix this by doing the following steps from your Android phone:

  • Open Contacts
  • Hit menu > Import/Export
  • Export to SD card, then hit OK to confirm.

After a few moments, your data will be exported.

Next, we delete all contacts, to prevent confusion

  • In Contacts, hit menu > delete > Select All > delete

If you don’t have this option, try Delete All Contacts from Android Market.

(If you’re concerned about deleting your contacts before re-importing them, you can always import them, then resolve the duplicates manually, but you will have stale contacts in your phone. Deleting your contacts then re-importing them a second time will take care of that.)

Lastly, re-import all the contacts to your Google account

  • Hit Import/Export again
  • Select Import from SD Card
  • Select Save contact to… (your Google account) NOT phone

After a few moments, your data will be re-imported, and synced with your Google account online. Note that it may take up to a few minutes for the contacts to start appearing in your Google account.

If you mistakenly import multiple times, you may end up with duplicates in your online Google account. To fix this, simply open more > Find and Merge duplicates from your Contact manager as shown below:

Yes, I really do have 329 contacts.

Note: It is not possible to preserve group information during an export/import. It’s not supported by Google.

Questions and comments are welcome below, thank you!

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Google adds two-factor (2-factor) authentication for Gmail and Google Apps

Two-factor authentication finally comes for Google accounts, including Google Apps.

From Google:

Using 2-step verification will help prevent strangers from accessing your account with just a stolen password. When you sign in with 2-step verification, you’ll verify your identity using both a password and a code that you receive on your phone. Learn more

The one-time-password (OTP) that you receive on your phone can come from one of two different methods: Either a time-based password using the Google Authenticator app for your smartphone (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android), or as a text message. Google also provides you a set of codes that you can print out, in case you don’t get your code or your phone is lost. Keep them in a safe place, because if you lose your phone and your codes, getting access to your account is a royal pain — but that’s the way it’s supposed to be:

You’ll need to fill out an account recovery form to verify ownership of the account. Take time to answer each question to the best of your ability. The form was designed to ensure that no one can gain access to your account except you. Since Google doesn’t collect a lot of information about you when you sign up for an account, we will ask you questions like when you created your account, what Google services you use, and who you email frequently (if you use Gmail) to make certain you are authorized to access your account.

Two-factor needs to be turned on in your Google Account settings, and Google has an excellent walk-though on how to activate and test two-factor during the setup. Google calls their two-factor authentication simply “2-step verification.”

To access your account settings from your Gmail or Google Apps mail screen, click Settings in the top right, then click the Accounts tab, then Google Account Settings. then click the “2-step verification” link.

Google says that setting up their 2-step verification takes about 15 minutes, and it’s a good estimate. Budget longer if you’re less savvy or want to be more careful. There’s a testing step involved, so there’s little risk of locking yourself out of your account.

There are major security advantages to using two-factor authentication. One of the biggest simply being that if your password is compromised, there’s still a barrier preventing someone from logging in and having their way with your account.

Along with this, Google introduces what they call “Application specific passwords.” These are workaround passwords for applications (IMAP/POP/SMTP clients, Google Talk, etc) that can’t present the OTP passwords required for two-factor authentication. Instead, you generate a different password — one for each resource if you like — and enter that in your application instead of your normal password. Sound confusing? It’s not, really. This has the added advantage that if someone gains access to your applications configuration files (e.g. Outlook) and pulls your password out, they can’t use it to log directly into your Google account. You can also go into your Google account and revoke these generated passwords at a later date if a resource does become compromised.

After enabling 2-step authentication, you’ll receive an email with information which includes information about application specific passwords:

IMPORTANT: What to Do If Some Applications Stop Working

Some applications that access Google data do not accept verification codes. They
only accept usernames and passwords. Examples include:

-Smartphones (e.g., Android, iPhone)
-Mail clients that use IMAP/POP (e.g., Outlook Express or Thunderbird)
-Chat clients (e.g., Google Talk)
-Picasa desktop application

Now that you have signed up for 2-step verification, these applications will
temporarily stop working. You can get them working again by entering an
application-specific password into the password box, instead of your regular
password or your verification code.

That email will contain a link to generate those application-specific passwords.

Security-minded individuals will no doubt embrace these changes to Google. I for one appreciate that Google is going to such great lengths to provide easy-to-implement security tools that benefit the consumer. I believe that Google may have done something really great here — users who are really concerned about security in Internet resources may now seriously consider creating Google account. Less technical consumers may still use Google using conventional username/password combinations if they so desire.

What do you think of Google decision to add two-factor authentication to accounts? Are you, or will you be, taking advantage of it?

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Paperless Geocaching

This isn’t meant to be a complete explanation of all the available options, but simply a quick primer for someone who is interested in planning a purchase to try for the goal of paperless geocaching. Paperless meaning, in the most general sense, you don’t need a paper printout for coordinates.

There are a few different ways to go about this:

You can have a GPS or GPS-enabled device that you load waypoint files on.

Most hand-held and vehicle GPS units will allow you to load waypoint files on them, thus giving you some kind of list of loaded waypoints and allowing you to approach and make the find without having to enter the actual coordinates into the GPS. Geocaching.com has two features that help with this: “Download waypoint file” and “Send to GPS”. The download waypoint file will generate either a .LOC or .GPX file for loading onto your device (See the documentation that came with your device for the actual process). The Send to GPS function appears to only work with Garmin devices (for now, at least).

The drawback to this method is you have to go on the geocaching.com website before your actual trip and choose which caches you will attempt and load them. The premium membership has a nice feature which helps with this: “Pocket queries.” Pocket queries can generate a waypoint file with up to 300 caches based on criteria you specify.

Garmin has a product line dedicated to the paperless geocacher. See information at Geocaching with Garmin.

This is a good viable option for those cachers who seek infrequently or who simply have a GPS unit and want to reduce their paper usage in an inexpensive way.

You can have a data-enabled device (such as a laptop or netbook with an aircard).

A netbook with an aircard can be an invaluable tool for use in the car (not on the trail) for looking up caches, viewing logs and maps, and logging your visits. This would allow you to log your visits without having to go back home, and give you a little more flexibility in case you find that you’re in a new area and want to pick up a quick cache or two. You can simply log on the website, look up a cache, punch the coordinates into your GPS, and away you go. Returning to the car, you can log your visit easily.

You can have a device which combines the two functions above, both retrieving the data from the website and helping you navigate to it.

This is the goal a lot of cachers (including myself) aim for: A single device that can do it all. A smartphone with GPS and data service is the usual tool for this job.

There are several different geocaching apps for smartphones, and some do it better than others. Here’s a quick run-down of some of my favorites:

Trimble Outdoors and Geocache Navigator by Trimble Outdoors – $9.99 (If I recall correctly)

These two programs are available on a large number of phones and carriers. I prefer Geocache Navigator, but Trimble Outdoors has a slightly different feature set which may make it appealing to different users.Geocache Navigator allows you to load up a list of nearby caches, display them on a map, seek them, and log your visit directly from your phone. It does require you to “tie” it to your geocaching.com account, which can be done easily from the geocaching.com website. One feature that Geocache Navigator does not have is the ability to set a waypoint (such as your car), which leaves the walk back completely up to you. Trimble Outdoors does have this, but doesn’t retrieve caches automatically; it requires you to load GPX files yourself prior to seeking a cache.

Geocaching by Groundspeak – $30

Groundspeak’s own geocaching app for Android and iPhone devices. These apps load caches near you (or by GC code) and help you navigate to it. Logging your visit, looking at previous logs, hints, even pictures are part of this app. Though a little pricey, these apps definitely do it all, and they’re published and supported by Groundspeak, the folks behind geocaching.com.

Free phone apps

I know there are a number of free apps, unfortunately they vary between carriers and phone brands, and I don’t have enough experience with them or a list of links to provide. Please feel free to leave your apps and feedback in the comments below.

Have your own way of going paperless? Have you had experience with any of the above apps you’d like to share? Have an app not listed above that you prefer? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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