Saturday, April 16, 2011

AAQR: (U) RPG Live Wallpaper (free)

Imagine someone is playing an RPG in your phone... a 2D RPG where the hero randomly walks around, encounters a random enemy, beats it, and levels up a bit at a time. You don't actually play it, you just watch it being played. It's very cute.

Rating: Try it
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Live Wallpaper Roundup Refresh Finished, Added 6 New Entries

The entire Android Live Wallpaper Roundup has been refreshed, with the stuff in Alphabetical sections, with proper counts, and all entries now have links to Appbrain entry.

A lot of dead links have been removed, so the count is probably less than 200 now. However, I will be adding quite a few back in, and here's the first set of updates... 6 that had previously been reviewed here will go into the roundup.

AAQR: Balancer Launcher (free) Home Replacement

Balancer Launcher claims to be a lighter faster launcher. However, it really has no special features other than the horizontal scrolling app drawer and a built-in digital clock widget (oh, and the delete zone is up on the top)

I see no reason to try this when Zeam is better.

Rating: Skip it

AAQR: Mr.Home (free) HomeReplacement

Mr.Home basically is ADW.Launcher with a few tweaks added... somewhat like LiveHome. It has a couple transition effects between the pages. Other than that, it's really same as ADW.Launcher.

In fact, when you bring up the preferences page, you will find a menu item that says ADW Settings.

Why? ADW.Launcher had gone open-source a while back.

Why use a cloen when you can have the original? Or even GoLauncher Ex which is better? Hmmm...

Rating: Skip it

AAQR: SmartLauncher (free) home replacement app

SmartLauncher tries to be the lightest launcher possible. However, in doing so it abandoned almost everything needed in a launcher: speed.

SmartLauncher has only ONE screen, and NO icons of shortcuts AT ALL. It also distorted wallpaper by squishing them into the single screen.

You have three buttons along the bottom: phone (brings up the default "dialer" app), drawer (brings up its version of the app drawer), and the right unlabelled button actually brings up the web browser.

The drawer actually brings up the apps in a LIST (one app per row), with a search box on top, instead of multiple icons per row. The drawer appears to do NO caching, so every thing you hit the drawer it rebuilds the list, and this leads to a HUGE delay of several seconds, completely negating the "simplicity".

Sorry, but this is a piece of junk.

Rating: Skip it

AAQR: Launcher Wall and Launcher Box Live Wallpapers (free) (U)

Both Launcher Wall and Launcher Box are live wallpapers based on the OwnSkin system from Wolf Labs. (Ownskin is an Android Live Wallpaper editor/creator, and will be discussed separately). They are basically different versions of the same idea: make your live wallpaper do more than just look pretty.

Launcher Wall basically added app launching shortcuts to the live wallpaper. Here's a screenshot:

The picture in the middle is a random picture from your gallery. All the other icons can be set to launch a specific app.

Launcher Box is the same idea, albeit with the Windows Phone 7 "Metro UI" look.

It will give you a very clean look with virtually NO icons on the screen unless you want them.

Not bad, not THAT exciting either.

Launcher Wall: Try it

Launcher Box: Try it
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Friday, April 15, 2011

AAQR: WordSmith (game, paid)

WordSmith is a Scrabble-like word game where you use individual letter tiles to form words, the longer the better. It has random match.

The problem is the pace of the game. Everybody takes just about forever for those words. So what I ended up doing is I started like 4-5 games and wait for someone to make a move in one of them. You get push notification when someone's made a move so you can't miss your turn. On the other hand, it's boring as heck waiting and waiting.

Rating: Try it
(paid version also avaiable)
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Home Replacement App Roundup updated, added Regina 3D Launcher

Regina 3D launcher is a very impressive looking (even MORE than ADW.Launcher) though buggy launcher that has a lot of potential. See the updated roundup, or the quick review just below

AAQR: Regina 3D launcher

Regina 3D launcher is a bit flaky (crashes a bit), but it is so visually impressive, I am quite impressed.

Each screen on the desktop can be set with its own wallpaper and even named (games, work, home, etc.)

Rotate panes with just press and swipe with one finger (and look like you're playing with CoverFlow style)

Download additional widgets to extend capabilities like Todo List, Weather, and so on.

Get it. You won't be sorry to try this.

Rating: Get it!

AAQR: Pewpew 2 (Game, Paid)

Got Pewpew 2 for free from Amazon Appstore during the giveaway period. It's a neat little game.

Basically it's a combination of Robotron (with twin joysticks) with the looks of Omega Race or one of those vector displays. And there are a variety of game modes. There's a whole "tree" of missions with some unique challenges per level. Special gates keep you an the area until you deal with the enemies. Sometimes you are "tied up" against a central "chain" until your weapons work. At other times it's "run for it!" dash for the finish.

It's frantic action, and it has campaign mode AND survival mode.

Try the demo.

Rating: Try it!

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AAQR: Wave Live Wallpaper (U)

Wave is yet another rendition of the Sony PS3 screensaver where a "wave" moved about a bit.

It's... boring.

Rating: skip it

AAQR: SpeedX 3D (game, free)

SpeedX 3D is basically same idea as CubeRunner, except you're stuck in a "tunnel" and you rotate a bit to avoid the obstacles instead of moving in 2D (left and right) you rotate around this "tunnel", and see how far down you can go. There's a bit of a powerup... If you get charged up by running over a power zone, you can crash through some obstacles.

Worth a try, as it is free.

Rating: Try it
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AAQR: Smelly Jack Live Wallpaper (U)

Smelly Jack is a rabbit... a dirty rabbit who... passes gas a lot. It will just jump around the screen and do some random things.

And really, that's it.

Rating: Skip it

AAQR: Skyrocket 3D Live Wallpaper (U)

Skyrocket 3D appears to be a port of the "Really Slick Screensaver" of the same name, and it is pretty darn good, much better than anything else, that's for sure. The fireworks launch leaves smoke trails, and the explosions are in genuine 3D with roaming cameras showing you every angle.

If you want a Live Wallpaper to show off, this is one of your best choices.

Rating: Get it!
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AAQR: Seabed Live Wallpaper (U)

Seabed Live Wallpaper is basically "Waves" LWP with a fancy background. Enough said.

Rating: Skip it

AAQR: Lufaweiss Aquarium (U)

An artsy background with VERY slow animation (like 2 frames per second) of ONE fish that's a few pixels big.

Sorry, but this is a joke, and there's not even any settings to tweak.

Rating: Skip it

AAQR: Tank Hero (game, free)

Combat (video game)Image via WikipediaTank Hero is one of those small yet addictive games. The premise is basically just like the old Atari game "Combat", albeit just with tanks (no jets or spaceships in this one).

You control one tank, and your objective is to kill all of the other tanks on the level without getting killed yourself. You have a much faster firing cannon, and you can shoot in one direction and move in a different direction, just like a real tank with rotating turrets. Furthermore, your shots will bounce off walls (at least once) and you can use that to your advantage. Later you get advanced weapons like missiles.

The controls are twitchy and difficult. There are several control schemes but all of them are twitchy and glitchy. The tanks fire without being prompted to do so. Turret won't rotate properly (or at least aim properly, keeps flickering a little). The game is a little fast for careful aiming, but that doesn't excuse the glitchy controls.

The tanks are small enough to see the whole playing field and big enough to see SOME details. Graphics are decent and has a good frame rate.

As the game is free, give it a try. It's good for some short amusement.

Rating: Try it!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stuck in 1xRTT? Here may be a solution

For the past TWO MONTHS, I was stuck in 1xRTT because I went over the soft quota in January 2011. Instead of 5GB soft cap (it's technically unlimited) I went to 7.2 GB. Verizon promised that I'll be slow, and I get occasional 3G, but mostly I get stuck in 1xRTT.

So when April came along, I was hoping I'd be back to 3G, but no luck. I am STILL in 1xRTT, even though the new billing cycle started YESTERDAY.

I took the phone to Verizon store, and the first thing the guy said was "sorry, we don't touch rooted phones". So basically, he was no help at all.

Then I remembered there are technician codes one can try. So for fun, I tried the first code listed here:

Then I changed the setting from CDMA only to CDMA (auto)

When I exited the menu, voila! 3G!  Rebooted, no more 3G. So I know it's not hardware issue.

I then dialed *228, then option 2, to update your phone's roaming PRL (don't worry, it won't hurt it).

Got 3G again now... I needed to wait about 15 minutes, but it works now.

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AAQR: World Series of Poker Hold'em Legends (game, paid)

Poker chip with the WSOP logo.Image via WikipediaGlu Mobile got the license for World Series of Poker (WSOP) Hold'em Legends, and this one incorporates quite a bit of video for the mood.

The initial install is quick, but the game needs to download another 250 MB from Glu's Server, and that can take a LONG time, even on a WiFi network.

The full game has a LOT of features. You start playing games at a local bar, and you can bet in game money or even just "chips" at a pick-up game.  It's not easy, mind you. The AI is quite good.

There are even "tells" from the not-so-good AI players that let you know they are bluffing. (You can turn that off if you wish).

You can steadily work your way up, to the world series event in Vegas for that million dollar prize. There are even videos and such setting the mood along the way.

The game itself is nicely polished though a bit of a memory hog.

With the full game price dropped to $0.99, it should be worth picking up if you need a little practice at Texas Hold'em poker.

Rating: Try it

Demo version

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AAQR: Diner Dash 2 (game, paid)

Diner DashImage via WikipediaDiner Dash 2 was one of the games given away by Amazon AppStore, so I downloaded a copy to try out.

Diner Dash series is basically one of those "spinning plates" or "juggling balls in the air" games. You have one of you and you need to juggle a lot of different activities, preferably chain the activities together for bonuses and efficiency.

In the case of Diner Dash, you are one waitress, and you need to serve the customers with the following activities (not a complete list):

  • take customer to proper table
  • drop off menus
  • take orders
  • move orders to kitchen
  • pick up entrees from kitchen
  • take entrees to proper table
  • get paid
  • clean/ clear table
  • drop off dirty dishers at the sink
  • get baby seat (only for families)
  • clean floor (only for familes)
The complications are customers do not have infinite patience. The longer they wait, the angrier they get, and the less they will tip. And you can only grab 2 items at a time. Different customers have different speeds and different patience, so it gets complicated as you try to juggle the many different responsibilities. Different sized parties (single, double, quad, family...) needs to be fitted to the various tables you got. 

Later levels introduced stuff like espresso machine (bonus profit, or offer to customers to calm them down as they wait) and other bonus items which gives you more time, easier to chain the bonuses, and so on. 

These games always have different levels of success. The bare minimum is enough to go onto next level, but you can strive for really good performance as well. 

The problem is this formula is getting a little old. Diner Dash is already up to #5, plus a variety of clones with cake shop, coffee shop, even airports (Airport Mania). If you like this sort of game, give it a try. Else... there are things with more interesting challenges out there. 

Rating: Try it

Demo version below (full version is $4.95)

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

AAQR: Catch Notes (formerly 3Banana Notes)

Image representing as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBaseCatch, along with Springpad and Evernote, dominate the mobile "everything bucket" arena. While Evernote was indeed the first, the competition is arguably better.

Catch, first of all, is small and fast. The main menu starts into 8 icons

My notes -- all your existing notes complete with geotag and date/time, as well as type
Tags -- all of the context tags
Text Note -- type in a note (or use voice input, it's up to you). Use hash tags to create "tags" without doing a separate tagging
Camera note -- invokes camera to take picture and enter that as note to tag
Gallery note -- pick a picture from gallery and use that as note
Voice note -- invokes recorder to record, hit stop and it's saved.
Reminder note -- Simple alarm / reminder / notification, enter description if you wish
Settings -- the settings box, of course.

There's a separate 4x1 widget you can download which invokes the main app, or text note, camera note, or voice note.

What I like about Catch is its speed. It is much snappier than Evernote. You can create a separate account or just use your Google account. For security, you can password protect the app itself so nobody but you can get to the notes. You can also pin specific notes to the homescreen.

All in all, this is better than Evernote, which had became bloated and slow as heck, esp. on Android. Being a long-time Evernote user, I find myself using Catch more and more. It's just that much easier and faster.

Rating: Try it!
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AAQR: Zenonia 2 (game, paid)

Zenonia 2 is one of those Asian RPGs where you're a cartoonish character on this 2D overhead view trying to survive. You can choose from 4 professions (i.e. classes) and there's a long drawn out intro (press button to continue bazillion times).

I *hate* to say this, but whoever designed this game did not port it well. The fonts and letters are WAY TOO SMALL, and WAY TOO DARK. It's just unplayable and unreadable on my phone. If you have a tablet, that'd be great. The 7-inch Galaxy Tab would be just about perfect.

If you like this sort of game, I am sure you'll enjoy it for quite a well, as it looks to be pretty deep. However, I no longer have the dexterity or the yearning for repetitive RPGs, and have not had it for 20 years.

Rating: Try it  (if you are fan of Japanese-style RPGs)  or  skip it (if you're a regular Joe)
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

A few hints and tips for Airport Mania

Reflexive EntertainmentImage via WikipediaThis cute little game from Reflexive is not as hard as I originally thought. Here are some hints:

(review is here: )

  • Get VIP Runway -- makes it easier to chain the landings for more bonus
  • Get bonus jet -- the bigger the planes you land, the more money you make, so you need to spend money to make money, so to speak. 
  • Change the setup -- if you are stuck at 2 star and can't break through, change the upgrades a bit. Sell a few upgrades, and get some OTHER upgrades instead. 
  • Not all gates need to be upgraded. If you you have 3-4 gates, upgrade 2 of them should be enough. 
  • Keep the planes happy -- use the movies and/or soda fountain when they started to get mad
  • I've never needed to "repaint". I do fine without ever using it
  • You often have TWO different plane wait areas. Use both! 
  • The only reason you need more than one runway is to anticipate ice / fog. If you already have 3, you should NEVER need a 4th one. And if you already got the fan / dryer then you don't need a 4th runway. 
  • double-tap to cancel an existing order queue
  • Your order queue can go up to 4 steps, use as many as you need. 
  • If you are really stuck, get a recorder and recite which color planes have arrived. This will give you a table of which color is more frequent, thus you need to keep those relatively together 

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AAQR: Tiki Tower 2 (game, paid)

Tiki Tower was one of better physics puzzle games around for Android. I actually played it first on an LG non-smartphone. Later I bought the app for Android as well. So I was kinda surprised when I found there's a sequel.

The sequel is pretty much MOTS, and bit enhanced.

The plot is whimsical as ever. In the previous game, the monkeys made their way through 5 islands and finally found a plane. As they fly along, a gorilla general shot them out of the sky. They bailed out just in time, and the gorillas took the wreckage, but the monkeys are now stranded on this island. Thus, another adventure!

Basically, you need to help 5 monkeys get to an "exit" by building various structures, lines that the monkeys can climb up/down etc. You only have certain number of these bamboo sticks to use so you can't waste them. In fact, some of the later goals is to use the minimum number possible for higher levels of success.

To make things complicated, there are 5 bananas scattered around the level and if you get the monkeys to the bananas you get additional achievement that level.

Monkeys are not gentle beings. They will swing back and forth and such, often breaking your structure. Clearly, if you lose a monkey, or if the structure broke and the monkeys can't get to the exit, it's "do over" time.

Later levels introduced multiple exits: you can go one way, or the other, and get access to certain "bonus levels". Other special levels give you access to certain special item(s) on a level which will give you access to yet OTHER special levels.

There is also a "world map" now that tracks your progress, and gives you access to other levels as well.

There are no demos for this game, but I believe they are worth $2.99 each.

Rating: Try it (for both)  (original)  (the sequel)

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AAQR: SwipePad and Dock4Droid, two close cousins

SwipePad and Dock4Droid are practically cousins. They do very similar things, and in very similar ways.

SwipePad (beta) is a "anywhere launcher", that allows you to open any app from within any OTHER app. Usually the "activation zone" is right edge, upper-half. Hold finger there then slide left, and SwipePad will pop up, and you'll see 12 zones where you can configure apps you want to launch, or if the zone's already configured, launch the app. It is very similar to Smart Taskbar, but much more intuitive.

Rating: Get it!

Dock4Droid is an app SWITCHER. It does not launch apps, but rather pops up which app you currently have loaded. It stays at the bottom edge. Hold finger there, and it will pop-up a dockbar similar to Apple's iOS launchdock. Slide left or right o highlight the app you want to bring forward, and release, and voila, there you go. Very intuitive.

Rating: Get it!

I previously use TaskTray but i think I may switch as I want my camera button back (I had it set to bring up Task Tray)

Android Keyboard Review Now Covers 34 different soft keyboards

Go Dev Team had been busy... They added Go Keyboard and Go Input (i.e. Go Touch IME) for Android.

That makes it 34 different keyboards reviewed.

AAQR: Amazon Appstore for Android

Amazon Appstore is an alternative market for apps and it is giving away one free app every day (and these apps were paid apps... just free for 24 hours) as a promo, so it probably won't last.

The interface is okay, nothing too special, looks a little like the old Android Market or old Appbrain.

It is linked to your account, and has its own update screen and download screens.

My only objection to the download is it doesn't integrate with anything else. If you download an app in Amazon Appstore, Appbrain / market will see the app being there, but obviously won't update it as it has a separate "paid licnese checker" API. This, Appbrain may keep wanting to update it, then you realize you didn't pay for it so you can't update it through Appbrain / Market, but must go back to the Amazon Appstore. The search and filter interface is also not as good as Appbrain's, but that's almost nitpicking.

Definitely worth a try, if only for the free apps.
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