smartphone

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Our custom lineups

Our custom lineups

In a previous post, Android home theater and automation apps, I mentioned the Titan TV app:

“TitanTV – Free. Displays a channel guide for the Tulsa broadcast stations we watch, my wife’s preferred digital cable channels, or the analog cable channels, The latter is particularly useful, since the only on-screen analog channel guide is the super-slow-scrolling, half-screen Channel 3.”

To create these custom lineups, sign up at titantv.com.

Once you log in, create a New Channel Lineup. Base it on the broadcast and cable services in your area.

At left: our three custom lineups.

For the broadcast list, I simply deleted the channels we don’t watch, including shopping, religious, kids, and a few that are outside our service area.

We use the analog listing exactly as TitanTV has it.

I also created a list with my wife’s go-to digital channels.

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(Click each image for a close-up.)

Titan TV is the best app I have found, but it has a problem every month or two: it forgets to let you be logged in.

Whenever this happens, I use another app called Android Assistant.

AA lets you Clear Data for Titan TV, which restores your ability to log in. It’s a pain, but Titan TV is too useful.

If anyone has a better app, I would love to hear about it.

My wifi-only Android 2.3.5 smartphone.

I thought it might be helpful to show you the home theater/automation apps I use. You may find only a few of relevance to your setup, but let’s just go down the list:

Roku Highlights – Shortcut to a updatable Word doc on my Google Drive. Reminds us whether our favorite or new shows are on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, or Plex.

TitanTV – Free. Displays a channel guide for the Tulsa broadcast stations we watch, my wife’s preferred digital cable channels, or the analog cable channels, The latter is particularly useful, since the only on-screen analog channel guide is the super-slow-scrolling, half-screen Channel 3.

(Cable company) Connect – Channel guide, remote DVR programming. Also administer phone service, if you have it with them, pay your bill, get support, etc.

Romoku, Roku – Two free apps to control our Roku boxes. I prefer the unofficial Romoku, but both have their pluses.

Yatse, XBMC Remote – One paid, one free app to control the Raspberry Pi running RaspBMC. I prefer Yatse, but it can be a bit confusing until you get used to it.

Plex Remote – Select a particular Plex Media Server and client (Roku box or PleXBMC) to control. Free, optional, since other controls (e.g. Roku or XBMC Remote) work as well.

My Media Center – Local broadcast TV channel changer, channel guide, and remote DVR programming for a Windows Media Center computer. $5, but worth it.

Remote Ripple – Android app version of TightVNC, lets me completely control our computers via remote view of the screen, and virtual mouse. Works surprisingly well and has been very useful.

X10 Commander – Control lights, fans, coffee maker from anywhere in the world, if you want to brew coffee remotely.

RPiController – Check the status of my Raspberry Pi, or reboot it. Comes in handy if there is no other way to get through to it.

RasPi Check – Shows vital stats of the Pi, such as CPU, GPU temperature, overclocking parameters, free memory, disk usage, etc.

JuiceSSH – Terminal client, lets me log into the Pi and monitor its processes, download files directly from the web, become superuser, etc.

Hybrid Stopwatch – Once the coffee maker is turned on with X10 Commander, start a timer to be alerted when it is ready to serve.

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Albert’s X10 doorbell

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Albert on a stump

Our neighbor’s cat, Albert, likes to drop by periodically. Since we aren’t always near our patio door, we could miss some of his visits, as he is too gentlemanly to meow loudly in this circumstance. (He is named after Al’s Formal Wear, being a “tuxedo” cat.)

Since we already have X10 home automation, I rigged up a doorbell for him by duct-taping a motion detector to a half-brick.

When he walks onto our deck, the motion detector sends a radio signal to the transceiver plugged into the wall. The transceiver converts the radio signal into the equivalent X10 over-the-house-wiring signal. A chime module “hears” it, then sounds, so we can go out and pet him or usher him in, as he wishes.

Last week, my mom said that she wanted a smartphone so she could take good pictures and be able to talk on the phone, too. Upon cross-examination by me and my brother, it was determined that she did not wish to post the photos on Facebook, just show them to her friends on a relatively large screen.

A new smartphone is going to cost a fair amount out of pocket, then you have a phone plan starting at $25/month absolute minimum. That’s a lot to pay for a glorified camera.

I had a money-saving idea for her: buy an Android 7″ tablet for about $50. It has a built-in camera and a larger screen than any smartphone on the market. Then she could get a tiny pay-as-you-go phone for about $7/month, like the one I recently ordered from Tracfone.

She reiterated that she really wanted to have just one device to take pictures and talk and text, but didn’t want to pay a smartphone price. Maybe by now you can guess the brilliant (IMO) suggestion I made:

Buy the tablet and the cheap phone. Then duct-tape the phone to the back of the tablet, and you’re good.

To read about other constructions of equal quality and taste, read this classic page, Redneck Neighbor.

MOTOGO EX431G

I do have a large hand, but this phone is small.

My wife bequeathed her previous smartphone to me, no service plan active.

I added the Google Voice app, making it a free wifi texting phone. I also rooted it, and use it to control home automation, and various home theater devices, to be detailed later. It can even administer this website! I love it.

But all I need when out of wifi range is an occasional/emergency cell phone to fit easily into my pocket or running belt.

I recently cast a jaundiced eye toward my two year old cell phone deal. I was on a Net10 200 minutes plan costing $17/month. I had so many minutes accumulated I could have talked continuously for days. But apparently, I didn’t have that much to say.

Tracfone offers a MOTOGO EX431G for $10. Very thin and small with a keyboard. Using their Pay As You Go plan, the cost comes to about $7/month. I kept my previous cell phone number at no charge.

Clark Howard would be proud. (Later note: but not as proud as he would be of Sir Paul’s cousin.)

From CBS Moneywatch: Living with a smartphone — and no cellular plan