Category Archives: Android

Boring, But Useful, Android Utilities

Couple of apps worth having on your Android (I run a Nexus 7 tablet):

ASTRO File Manager

I’ve tried out ES File Explorer, AndroZip, and a couple of others. I like ASTRO the best. First, the UI is excellent, with good use of swipes. Second, you can hook in all the standard cloud services (Dropbox, Box, Skydrive, Google Drive, etc). This means you don’t have to use their individual apps — everything is right in ASTRO. Worth having on your tablet.


I’ve finally found the weather app I’ve always wanted. Simple, well designed, and unobtrusive. Has widgets, the full app, and displays in the taskbar (or whatever they call that top bar).  Real time radar! No annoying popup ads! Free! Fast! It is the best weather app I’ve come across.

Battery Stats Plus

Another app in a crowded field, but it does what I want it to: Tells me, clearly, what’s hogging battery. I recently had some problems with battery usage and this app helped track it down. The free version has everything I need.


More Casual Games


I don’t play this too much, but it is a pretty good game. Spin the dial, collect the colored dots as they approach. Easier played than said. I can usually only do a couple minutes of it before it gets too fast for me.

Little Things Forever

Bunches of shapes hidden in a larger object. Find three per puzzle. Zero stress, though you can go cross-eyed after a time. This one would also be good for kids.

Rico (Lite)

What the kids call a “platformer” but what I call, Pitfall II. Run around. Jump. Avoid objects. And you can set it easy so you don’t feel too stressed (I’m all about low stress). I’ve tried a couple of these types of games, but like this one the best. Two problems, though. First, the control icons are too small on the Nexus 7. The actual range of control is okay (you don’t have to hit the little icons), but still not sized well for a 7″ or greater tablet. Second, it was designed for a phone, so fonts and whatnot are way too small on the tablets. Otherwise, a lot of fun. Put it on easy, with a lot of checkpoints, and you won’t be annoyed too much. It has extremely retro 8-bit graphics, but they do the job.

Super Stickman Golf

Another 8-bit-like golf game. More physics than real golf, but a good time waster. It’s like those “angle” games of the past, where you have to judge angle and strength to get the ball in the right place.

Trainyard Express

Connect a train to it’s station, but not like some of the other train/track/plane games, since everything is on a grid. Kinda hard to explain, so just download and try it out. Starts out almost too easy, but ramps up. Give it some time to challenge you.

Android Keyboard

I’ve been looking for a wireless keyboard for my Nexus 7. Not that I’m going to be using it a whole lot, but I want something for client site meetings. So I can be a good boy and get my notes right into Evernote and my tasks right into Astrid. Trying to get out of the write-and-transcribe routine.

I was looking at the Logitech, which had good reviews and a nice case, but the vendors on Amazon were sketchy, and it was out of stock at real places. The ZaggKeys also looked good, but the reviews were mixed. The Apple would have been a solid choice, but I didn’t want a bunch of function keys that wouldn’t work. And I kept seeing people saying the same thing: buy the keyboard, not the case it comes with. Good advice.

In the end, I went with the Motorola Wireless. It’s designed for their tablets/phones, but it works fine with the Nexus. Even most of the function keys work, which is nice. I just got it, so we’ll see how long it lasts. So far so good. Paired easily. Uses 2 AA batteries. On-off button to save power. Now I just need to sew a slipcase for it.

Here’s a photo of my Nexus 7 with the Moko case I already had, along with the new keyboard. BTW: It’s a real-sized keyboard. Not too crunched up at all.

DSCN2585 (Medium)

And I know I’m being goofy here, but I kinda like the wacky font they used on the keys.

Here are links to Amazon for the keyboard (about $30) and the case that I use (about $15).


Nexus News Readers

I’ve been installing and playing around with a couple of news readers for Android / Nexus. Google News is fine, but I’m more of an article guy. And, frankly, the breaking news is usually pretty darn depressing.

I’ve done Flipboard, which is pretty good. Installed News360 and was disappointed (clunky). And I have no desire to install an individual app for each newspaper / content provider.

Early on, I tried Google Currents, but wasn’t overwhelmed with it. But not anymore. The newest versions they have rolled out are fantastic. Easy to browse. Lots of content. And nicely formatted for the 7″ display (except for a couple of sites–I’m talking to you, Huffington).

Some of my favorite subscriptions: Daily Beast, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington, Slate, Onion (videos only), Independent, Saveur, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American, and Mental Floss. There are a ton more which I need to explore.

All in all, Google Currents is the only news reader you need to use. And it’s included on every Nexus. For free. If you haven’t used it recently, grab the latest version and give it a try. It will give you your news fix in a really polished format.


The Lonely Gamer

Sometimes you just want a brainless time waster that you can come back to. Here are a couple of good ones:

Word Search by Melimots

It’s word search. You can change the complexity. What more do you want? Non-distracting ads, which it has. A little banner ad. No biggie. Some people have complained that it has “words I don’t know” and “won’t recognize 3 letter words I find”. To which I say: you are an idiot. It’s freaking word search! The best version I’ve found so far. No glitz. No glamour. Just word search. Free.

Solitare by Mobilityware 

This is on all platforms (iPad, Kindle Fire, Google Play) and is one of the best known. It’s Klondike and that’s it. If you want Spider or FreeCell, get their other apps. It works, it’s simple, and only has ads in-between games. If you complain about ads in between games, you are a cheapskate and/or play too fast. Deal with it. Devs need to make money. Free.

Zookeeper DX TouchEdition by Kiteretsu

I have mixed feelings about this game. First, the good stuff. It’s Zookeeper. If you liked that game on the Nintendo DS, you know what it is. Graphics and sounds are the same, but bigger (depending on your screen, of course).

On the down side, on a tablet, it’s too big. I found it a lot easier to play on the smaller screen of the DS. And a stylus works better, too. And maybe I’m getting older, but I found the Nintendo version ramped up in difficulty a lot slower. Which is good for an old man like me. This gets too hard too fast.

It’s a buck, and if you like Zookeeper, it’s worth it. Otherwise you can look for other “match three blocks” games (or whatever they are called).