Posts Tagged iPhone

How to display ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact on your iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry lock screen

If you  have stored ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts in your phone, you probably noticed that your phone treats them like any other contact. This means that emergency responders won’t be able to access your contacts if your phone is locked. Also, if you’re an Android user using a custom ROM, there’s a chance an emergency responder won’t even know how to access your contacts. In an emergency, every moment is important.

You can, through a few easy steps, display emergency contact information, along with any other information you select, on your phone’s lock screen. This means that it will be available just by turning on the screen, making it quickly and easily available in the case of a real emergency. Who knows, this might actually help you get your device back in case it’s lost or stolen.

You might also be interested in reading about how to streamline your emergency contacts with an emergency email address.

So how to do it?

Select a wallpaper (dimensions)

Start by selecting what will be your new wallpaper (either an existing photo or graphic) with a resolution close to your phone’s display, to prevent the text from being stretched or scaled. Here’s the resolution of many popular smartphone displays:

  • BlackBerry: Varies by model, but the most common sizes are:
    • BlackBerry Bold: 480×320
    • BlackBerry Curve: 320×240
    • BlackBerry Pearl: 240×260
    • For other devices, or to verify the above, see BlackBerry forums for your device’s exact resolution.
  • Android: Android also supports a wide variety of screen resolutions. You will likely find your device and its resolution listed at Comparison of Android devices – Wikipedia.
  • iPhone 2G through 3GS: 320×480
  • iPhone 4 and 4S (retina display): 640×960

Edit it to add your contact information

Open your soon-to-be wallpaper in your favorite image editor, or use one of the following utilities:

You’ll want to place your text and/or information where the UI isn’t going to cover it. Here’s some pointers:

  • BlackBerry: Avoid the top 1/4 and bottom 1/4 of the image, as well as the direct center (where the unlock/password prompt appears).
  • Android: Avoid the top 1/4 and bottom 1/4 of the image, as well as any other UI elements (such as the unlock slider). You may have to experiment somewhat, since different Android versions have different slide-to-unlock methods.
  • iPhones: avoid the top 1/4 and bottom 1/4 of the image.
You may want to consider creating text over a solid color of text, so it stands out and it easy to read. If you’re not handy with the above programs, consider asking a friend to make the edits for you.

Save it to your phone

  • BlackBerry: Either insert your microSD card to your computer, or connect your phone and mount it as USB storage. Copy your picture to your card in any location, but remember where you put it for the next step.
  • Android: Either insert your microSD card to your computer, or connect your phone and mount it as USB storage. Copy your picture to your card in any location, but remember where you put it for the next step.
  • iPhone: The easiest way to get your picture onto your device is to email it to an account you have set up on your phone. Then, from your phone, save the attachment from your email.

Set it as your wallpaper

  • BlackBerry: open your pictures (via Media, may vary by OS version), display the image you want, hit menu > Set as Home Screen image.
  • Android: From your home screen, press menu  button > Wallpapers > Gallery > (select folder and file).
  • iPhone: Go to Settings > Wallpaper > (touch screen) > Camera Roll > (Select your picture) > Set.

There you have it. Your emergency contact information is now displayed on your phone’s display, even when it is locked, making it available to emergency personnel quickly and easily.

What do you think of this tip? Was this useful to you? Do you have any other tips or suggestions to share related to this? Please share in the comments section below! Thank you!

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I put down my Android and picked up an iPhone… here’s what I noticed

I’ve been getting more than a few expressions of “You? Got an iPhone?” from friends and family lately, after they see my iPhone 4S. While I’ve been known not to be the biggest fan of Apple up until now, I’m starting to realize why the device has gotten to be so popular — it’s an easy-to-use, reliable device that doesn’t frustrate.

Although learning a new smartphone OS hasn’t been terribly difficult, here’s some of the major points between the two that I’ve found myself having to adjust to.

The Home Screen

The home screen on an Android phone is more-or-less a “blank slate”, waiting for you to fill it to your liking with widgets and shortcuts, to make it just the way you want it. If you want to access all your installed apps you open what’s typically referred to as the “app drawer.”

On an iPhone, that “app drawer” is your home screen. No widgets here, though apps do have what’s called “badges” that can show an indicator on the icon if the app has something that wants your attention, such as a number of missed calls over the phone icon, unread texts over the messages icon, and so on.

Removable Storage

Android-based phones feature a microSD card slot for removable storage. It’s an optional — but highly recommended — additional storage space that you can use for media, and on some versions of Android, even apps. You can upgrade this by simply popping out the card, copying the contents to a new, presumably larger card, and putting that card in your phone.

On an iPhone on the other hand, what you buy is what you get — buy a 16GB iPhone, get a gross total of 16GB. Likewise for the other sizes, such as 32GB.

However, there’s some distinct differences:

Android phones by default have their apps installed on the phone’s lower-capacity internal memory. Since the internal memory is smaller than the microSD card, (Sprint’s Epic 4G for example, only has 1GB internal memory), you are sharply limited for the space your apps have to share with everything else. Starting with Android version 2.2 (Froyo) and up you had the ability to move apps to the SD card. This frees up internal memory. However, its up to the app developer to support this feature, and if they did, most apps still required that you move it yourself from within the phone’s settings. Remember those widgets? Don’t plan on them working if you move your app to the SD card.

iPhones on the other hand have a single unified storage area for everything. Assuming you get a 16GB iPhone, that storage space is used for everything — there’s no need to move anything. Apps, media, and the OS all share a single storage space. You might say “this is less overall than an Android phone”, and you would be right. But — you aren’t going to have to try to balance what apps are stored on SD card versus the phone’s internal memory.

When you plug your Android-based smartphone into your computer’s USB port, you’ll likely get a message asking if you want to charge-only, or mount as removable storage. If you select to mount as removable storage you have full access to the SD card in the phone. This is handy if you want to use your phone’s memory card as a makeshift USB flash drive. However, once you mount it to the PC, you don’t have access to it from the phone. Apps that are installed on the SD card cannot be run, and you won’t have access to any media on the card until you unmount it from the PC.

Media

Installing media on an Android phone isn’t difficult. Simply mount the phone to your PC as USB storage (or insert the microSD card into your computer), and copy music, pictures, or anything else you like to it. When you unmount (or insert the card back into the phone) the media scanner will automatically detect your media and propagate the media libraries. But — it’s up to you to get your own music.

With an iPhone and a Windows or Mac computer running iTunes you simply connect your phone to your PC, select what media — such as music, movies, or other — you want to sync, and iTunes adds it to your device. You can purchase your music through iTunes as well. However, you have to use iTunes. Don’t expect your iPhone and Linux-based PC to get along very well.

Backup and Restore

With an iPhone, completely backing up your device is as quick and easy as plugging it into iTunes and right-clicking on it and choosing “Backup.” iTunes takes care of it, and makes restoring it just as painless.

With an stock Android, you don’t have any options to make a “full” backup. You can sync your contacts, calendar, etc to your Google (or other) account, and there they will sit in case you need them. In case of a serious issue, you can boot your phone to recovery mode and wipe it from there, restoring it to stock configuration, after which, prepare to spend some time reinstalling and reconfiguring your apps and account. Rooted users have a few additional options, such as ClockworkMod’s Nandroid backup and restore, and the third party app Titanium Backup.

There’s a lot more differences between the two that I didn’t cover above. But I will say this: When people ask me why I got an iPhone, my typical response is something along the lines of “it’s easy to use without having to think about.” I really enjoy my iPhone, and I don’t think I’ll be picking up an Android phone again anytime soon.

What about you, reader? What are you experiences with Android and iPhones? Do you have anything to share or compare that I didn’t cover in the above? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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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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iPad used more than Linux computers?

Today, Royal Pingdom posted a somewhat-surprising blog entry that shows that the iPad alone, not any other iOS device like the iPhone or iPod touch, is used more than Linux computers.

Why is this only somewhat surprising? There’s plenty of reasons:

The positive about the Apple devices:

The iPhone and iPod Touch set the stage with — and raised the bar on — user friendliness in portable devices. The iPod was the device that some would argue re-made Apple. It quickly took over the portable media player market and set the new de-facto standard for what to expect in a music player: Lots of storage, and a simple, user-friendly interface. With the iPod Classic, new features brought even higher expectations. The iPod Touch and iPhone sealed the deal for Apple (and some would argue dealt AT&T a blow to the knees).

When the iPad arrived, it ran off the same iOS that the iPod touch did, which brought a familiar look and feel to iOS users. Drawing from the same App Store ensured that users would experience Apple’s touted “There’s an app for that” experience. In addition, the iPad pioneered the tablet experience to the mass market. Behind it’s launch, Android and Blackberry have struggled to gain market share.

The comparison to Linux:

When you compare the Apple iPad to the Linux market, it’s little surprise that the iPad comes ahead. Even the more popular Linux distros like Red Hat and Ubuntu, although moving ahead in leaps and bounds, still suffer their shortcomings with user friendliness and ease-of-use. Hardware quirks and incompatibilities often get the better of inexperienced users, who turn back to Windows or Mac for that lacking bit of hardware support.

Additionally, there aren’t many computer manufacturers who will sell systems with Linux pre-installed for an out-of-the-box experience. While Dell has sold systems with Linux pre-installed, and has sold select system with no OS, there’s a distinct bias in the new-sales model towards Windows. Why? Money. Microsoft pays the OEMs a commission for new-system sales with Windows pre-installed. On top of that, there’s less work for the OEMs to make sure that hardware works as expected. System76 has started picking up the pre-installed Linux market, selling systems with Ubuntu pre-installed, but the price is arguably higher than a system from another vendor, and I can’t speak to the warranty or support.

Conclusion:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Linux user and I love it. But I’m not blind to the fact that it has it’s shortcomings — although Red Hat and Ubuntu have really worked towards making everything work as it should, and making the user experience the best possible. Linux also runs on a wider-range (and a more inexpensive range) of hardware than Apple OS. Also, you can’t ignore that this study has a big of a flaw in it: This only compared stats between iPod and mainstream Linux (desktops and laptops) — two completely different device platforms.

Apples to apples or apples to oranges? Do the numbers even mean anything at all? What are your thoughts?

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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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Alchemy for Android

I recently got hooked on a new game for the Android phone called Alchemy. Here’s the description from the Android Market:

You have only four base elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Combine them and their products to get more than 200 new elements. You can create a Life, Beer, Vampires, Skyscrapers and many more..

Search the Market for “Zaikin” (the author’s last name) and look for this icon:

Or scan this barcode using your phone to download it directly from the Android market.

There is a game similar to Alchemy called Doodle God that you can play in a web browser. Play here. Doodle God is also available on iPhone.

UPDATE: This forum has a lot of hints and tips for Alchemy combinations. Some work in Doodle God while most either do not or produce different combinations.

Got any hints to share for Alchemy or Doodle God? Please feel free to share them in the comments below!

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Clicky Web Analytics

I had written a previous post roughly comparing a few web analytics programs, using some criteria that was important to me, and I had purchased a license for Mint to use on one site. Having two sites, though, I wanted them to use the same analytics package, so I shelled out the extra $30 for a second Mint site license.

That was the easy part. The real pain came when I actually set it up. I had to install a second copy of Mint (because it’s a per-install/per-domain license) so I had to install a second copy, copy over all my plug-ins and configure it, making sure I used the same login and password (so I wouldn’t get them mixed up) and configure the software alike with the first install.

Then I realized something: I had to go to each domain’s Mint installation to view stats. I couldn’t view the stats for both sites in the same view. (Though there is a plug-in for that, but it gets installed to a single domain install — I’d have to install it to both installations and mirror the setup again — What a pain!)

So, out $30 for the new license and realizing after the fact it wasn’t a good fit for my setup, I went to Piwik, which is an Open-Source, self-installed web analytics package. You install it to a single location and set up tracking for all your websites from it. It’s a fairly good piece of software, but I ran into several nasty show-stopping bugs: zeroing visitors in the database and an issue with PHP and the archive.sh cron job (not even mentioning the still-unresolved ever-growing database issue). I want an analytics package I don’t have to fight with to get good information out of. I want to spend my time using the information I can gather, not spend the time fighting with my analytics software.

Then I tried out Clicky Web Analytics. I have to say I am extremely happy with the service, and the pricing. No software to have to think about (or keep up to date), pricing is extremely fair (in fact, the best I’ve seen with 1 site being completely free), and the feature set is unparalleled. Real-time stats, including content, search terms, referrers, individual actions, a customizable dashboard, even iPhone and Android-specific mobile versions. A full API, RSS feeds, and site widgets round off the service offering, and that’s just at the free level. Paid versions (starting at $5/mo or $30/yr for 3 sites) get even more features, such as advanced data segmentation and the ability to name visitors using either the web interface or a CMS plugin.

The real icing on the cake with Clicky? They provide a non-js tracking code (in the form of a 1×1 transparent pixel) that you can insert on sites that don’t support javascript (like WordPress.com, Craigslist, eBay, MySpace, etc) so you can track pageviews even there!

I really recommend that you check out Clicky, even if (especially if) you only have one site to manage — it’s free.

Clicky Web Analytics

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My rant on Blackberry

So there’s a lot of things the Blackberry does RIGHT:

  • Good-sized full-QWERTY keyboard, without having to slide/rotate the phone.
  • Easy navigation via the trackball/trackpad (depending on model)
  • Fully multitasking OS
  • Quality speakerphone / microphone without echo
  • Durable hardware and great battery life

Now here’s where my rant begins:

For one, the Blackberry has a distinctive LACK of available “fun” software. There are a fair amount of games, but not nearly the selection of other mobiles. WinMo, Palm, and the iPhone especially have a wider variety of games, and other “fun” software.

For two, the Blackberry apps are quite a bit more expensive. From $2.99 per app on the cheap side all the way up to $50 for the priciest apps.

And for my biggest gripe, the distinct LACK of good IMAP support for BIS users. While the “push” email is great and all (email delivered to the phone when it’s delivered to the mailbox; no having to “poll” the mailbox), the inablility to use IMAP folders other than Inbox is a serious setback. More so, you’re only able to get new messages on the device, rather than being able to download mail that’s already in your box.

The IMAP issue is something that WinMo, Palm, and iPhone and some other phones already do quite nicely. this puts the Blackberry at a distinct disadvantage compared to other devices.

While this issue seems generally solved for Gmail users (through the “Enhanced Gmail plugin for Blackberry”), this is only for the single provider.

In my opinion this is something that RIM needs to get on with a quickness. This lack of proper IMAP support has me looking at other phones for the future.

If I could find a phone with a good QWERTY keypad with features like the Blackberry (along with proper IMAP) I’d definately consider switching when my times comes due.

Of course, if they enabled proper IMAP support in BIS, I think I’d be pretty happy indeed.

Time will tell. Maybe I’ll just learn to live with it.

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