Android Beyond Palm

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Once we got over our migration to the Android platform we could look into the power of Android that was far beyond anything reached by the Palms.

The Palm never really evolved beyond, low resolution black & white, no music capabilties, low computing power. It also never really evolved to a true USB device where you could connect it and move data on and off. The HotSynch program was amazing when it came out but had started to look old fashioned by the time the last Palm was made. We knew more was achievable and were disappointed that the Palm company was not going to put in the effort, Moving to Android introduced us to a lot of possibilities that could well have been part of the Palm, had the Palm management had the foresight.

This isn’t really a list of “top applications.” There seem to be lots of those on the internet, quite a few of which list dedicated apps from a local bank, newspaper or telephone utility as “the best of apps.” They might be good but if you are not customers of the issuing company then they are probably quite irrelevant to you. Most likely they are also not enough of an incentive to re-arrange your business affairs so you can use them. These apps are things we found in our non-exhaustive search. Things that suited use on the boat or did something unique and new.

Google Sky Map

The Google Sky app is amazing, especially when you on a boat out of sight of land. Using the Android GPS and star tables it portrays what the skies look like, no matter if it night, cloudy or evening bright daylight. It will even draw the heavens appearing on the other side of the earth if you hold your Android down towards the ground. Did you ever wonder exactly how near your feet the Southern Cross of the southern sky was when you are standing on the northern hemisphere? Google Sky Map will draw the planets and stars corresponding to where you have the Android. In bright daylight it will lt you know that Mercury is currently beside the sun (something that is impossible with the naked eye) or that Jupiter and Venus are passing near to each other. There is a search function to help you locate your favourite astral body (where is Casseopaia right now?). And it is free. As far as we know it runs on any current Android.

MARINE TRAFFIC

The Marine Traffic app uses the AIS transmissions from commercial shipping (and some pleasure boats) to plot the location of boats on a world map. Each boat can have a page at Marine Traffic where its static details and passages may be recorded, also pictures of it can be uploaded by interested parties. Initially we used Marine Traffic to find out about ships that were around us at anchor or in harbours. Eventually we created a page for Maringret. Within Marine Traffic is a facility to make up a list of vessels of interest to you (referred to as “My Fleet”), when one of those vessels has a change in status (e.g. departs or arrives at a harbour) then you will receive an email. In busy waterways Marine Traffic can be very useful in determining the intentions of fast moving commercial vessel so that you can stay safe by moving out of its intended path.

In something like 2014 Marine Traffic converted from an “advertising based” funding to a “pay to use” funding. So you had to pay to use it, and the friends on boats you followed had to pay to use it, and in the end, everybody we knew didn’t pay and didn’t use it. We once checked it daily and now never look at it.

WindGuru

The WindGuru app that has come to redefine how things are done on Maringret. The app operates in the same manner as the website www.windguru.cz. When we first came across the WindGuru website it was very impressive. Soon after moving onto Android we became aware that an Android app existed. The app took the power of the website and increased it.

The WindGuru App (and the website for that matter) take weather prediction data from the GFS (Global Forecast System) computer model operated by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in the USA which is run 4 times per day at (00 UTC, 06 UTC, 12 UTC, and 18 UTC). The forecasts are for 8 days. The forecast model covers the earth with 50 km resolution between forecasts data points. This means that any point on earth may be selected as point for a forecast (remembering the 50km resolution). For a sailing boat these data points may represent  way points, harbours, or any other point of interest. Points may be added or deleted from what the app reports at any point with minimal effort. The data is presented in tabular form and enhanced with colour coding. One thing which is only the website (so far at least) is a graphical display of the data as one timeline. This feature would be nice on the Android but having said that, most days we only use the Android app. There are issues with computer weather models which the website discusses at some length. After having used the WindGuru app intensely for some years we have recognised the same issues in television and printed forecasts and come to realise that they are depending on the same computer models.

Of all the “sailing” apps on the Android this is certainly the one that is used the most and also depended on the most.

Wikipedia

As Wikipedia grows in size and breadth of articles, the Wikipedia Android app allows you to save articles to the Android for later reference.

MailDroid

As of 2012 Yahoo doesn’t work on Android. Are these people on the same planet as their users? MailDroid seems to be able to do what Yahoo unable to do, namely, access the Yahoo mail servers. We have had no problems with this app.

Boat Browser

Internet access requires a browser of some sort and the aptly named “Boat Browser” fits our bill perfectly. It supports bookmarks, provides access to local storage, and will create bookmarks on the home page so you can tap them and have the browser load the related page – great for quick access to meteo pages.
Note: this app seems to have been removed from Google Play, see here for alternative download sites

DataSwitch

Our first Android had a data switch integrated in the floating tool panel in the alert window. The perfect thing to shut off your data access so “hungry” apps don’t keep updating the internet and slowly and quietly consuming your data quota. Our subsequent Samsung Androids didn’t have such a facility built in so we went looking and found DataSwitch which simply switches on or off the data access. The perfect thing for staying within your data allowance.
Note: this app seems to have been removed from Google Play, see here for alternative download sites

MY data manager

Just as DataSwitch lets you control the flow of data, My Data Managerallows you to manage your monthly plan. Once you enter the start date of your plan and its quota My Data Manager keeps track of your usage and projects your monthly usage. This allows you to manage your data consumption to stay within your plan and also to avoid “loosing” unused data allowance when the 30 days are up. An essential management tool.

BlueTooth file transfer

Bluetooth replaces the Infrared (IR) transfer (beaming) provided in the Palm Pilots. As implemented it is not as seamless but nevertheless works. Files or apps can both be transferred by this app.

Shazam

The Shazam app is rather impressive. Start it while music is playing and it has a good chance of identifying the song playing. It does require an internet connection but is the perfect solution to identifying that tune you hear every day but can never quite place.

HotSpot Tethering

HotSpot Tethering is built into the Android and allows the Android to take an internet connection and turn it into a WiFi service hosted by it. All security is available so the security can be password protected. This is how the computers on Maringret are operated as the Android smart phone has the internet connection and in turns makes it available to the computers via WiFi. One thing to note is that the batteries can be run down quickly by tethering if large amounts of data are moving.


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