Category Archives: thoughts

Android App Recommendations, In Which I Tell You How To Live Your Life

Let’s go over which applications are essential and why. At the moment I use the Motorola Moto G, model XT1045, using Android 4.4.4.

Essential List (without Pete Tong)

LastPass

This is a full-featured password manager. It is the first thing you get on any new device, including work computers, smart phones, public computers, et cetera. Sign up for LastPass Premium service for $1 USD per month and BAM, you will never forget a password ever again. Store notes, financial information like credit and debit cards, application credentials, network passwords, and anything else you can put into text. Retrieve this info efficiently with their browser add-ons, mobile applications, standalone applications, website, or bookmarklets. Auto-fill most web forms, create secure passwords that can be as long and complex as you wish since you don’t have to remember or even type them, easily change your passwords, auto-complete credit card information for online purchases, get through site registrations in seconds without typing a word. Ensure you disable browsers’ sub-par password synchronization and auto-complete features. Recommending LastPass is more like recommending exercise, healthy eating, and regular sleep schedules as a way to improve your daily life than it is an app recommendation. Just do it – first.

Swype (+ Dragon)

This keyboard lets you graduate from grade school, thumb mashing tiny on-screen keyboards, to join the big boys with Swype technology. You just drag your finger over the letters et voila, your mind-stream appears. Just get it. It’ll be a pain and you’ll complain for a week. Suck it up. You’ll be able to type faster than any Neanderthalic finger tapper with little relative experience.

Watchdog Task Manager Lite

I have used Advanced Task Killer until recently, but have since seen the light – since Android 4.0 came out with their stock application manager, that is. Why shouldn’t you use a task killer? As explained in a howtogeek.com article, background applications mostly behave properly, and shutting them down with these programs is so heavy handed that it may end up increasing battery use and slowing down your overall experience.

Use Watchdog Task Manager Lite instead. It identifies misbehaving applications and shuts them down individually.

Battery Mix

Tracks power statistics more accurately than the stock tracker. Identify gluttonous apps and wimpy chargers, and give yourself an actual number for remaining battery.

 My Data Manager – Data Usage

Track data statistics more accurately than the stock tracker. Ration your data use to daily amounts, set warnings and caps, and even track shared data plan usage. Learn which activities burn through data and which are light. Answer important questions like ‘How many times can I watch this cat video this month?’ (Answer: none.)

G Cloud Backup

Automatic backup services for the things you don’t normally think to backup, like contacts, call logs, text messages, and other documents. It can backup photos, videos, and music, but let’s use something else for that. Google keeps some data on their servers, allowing you to swap devices and retain contacts if stored properly, but there’s more to it than that.

Google DriveDropboxOneDrive, Copy, …

The plethora of available cloud storage solutions overwhelm the consumer, and we end up going with whatever is most popular and easiest. This isn’t a terrible strategy, as those at the top of the list are actually great! CNet has the full breakdown if you follow this finely crafted hyperlink. Get both Dropbox and Google DriveDropbox is best for general file sharing between environments; Google Drive is best for seamless integration in the Android and Google+ environment, and allows unlimited storage of photos less than 2048 pixels square (the Moto G camera is 2592 by 1944 pixels). Don’t like some things about these? Use them all at the same time, then keep that which you like best after a few weeks. Just make sure you use something with automatic uploads.

File Expert

We’ll always need a full-fledged file explorer, and the one that comes stock doesn’t cut it. This one does. Internal storage and external SD operations, wireless (Wi-Fi) file transfers, cloud support, etc. It’s complicated – it’s supposed to be. Get it.

Improve The Quality Of Your Life And Get These Apps

Amazon Kindle

You don’t need a Kindle to enjoy the benefits of ebooks. It’s better than other ebook readers. Get over it, Nook.

Google Goggles

Use this to analyze QR and bar codes. Also does reverse image searches, image to text searching, translates text, and a whack of other stuff.

Maps

Google Maps isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. Alternatives all have downsides which, when encountered, you solve by loading up Google Maps. Go straight to the solution and save yourself the hassle.

Mint

Automatically tracks your finances. Sign up at mint.com and start making smart budgeting decisions. Speeds up bill payment, especially credit cards, and gives you an excellent overview of all of your finances, including trends over various periods.

YouTube

User experience is much better with this app than a web browser.

AudioTagger

Make your music easier to find, identify, and group.

Xmarks

The best bookmark manager, and it integrates with LastPass. Sign up and get your browser add-ons at their website xmarks.com. Ensure you disable your browsers’ bookmark synchronization.

Dolphin Browser For Android

I like this browser more than the stock one, Firefox, or Chrome. It’s just light and easy. Get Dolphin Premium to get rid of ads; get Dolphin Jetpack to speed it up; get LastPass for Dolphin and Xmarks for Dolphin for obvious reasons.

Pushbullet

Push notifications are shared between your devices, often allowing you to follow up on them with whichever you happen to be using. For example, replying to a WhatsApp conversation on your cell phone with your Chrome browser on your laptop, sending a webpage from one browser to another, or pushing screen-caps from a movie you’re watching on your tablet to your phone.

MX Player

This is the best video player available. Supports a wide range of formats, with intuitive controls. It’s better than VLC.

Poweramp Music Player

This is the best music player available.

Sleep as Android

Are you getting enough sleep? Of course not, hardly anyone does. Well, it’s important. Start tracking your sleep habits so you can make informed decisions about it. Also, get the plug-in apps Sleepcloud Backup and tie it in with whichever cloud services you have so you can’t lose your data.

Plume for Twitter

Access your Twitter feed using this app, with a full-page widget for updates at a glance. Don’t use Twitter? Get off my lawn.

Podcast Addict

Use this app to search for, subscribe to, download, organize, and play podcasts. Sign up for RadioLab and Stuff You Should Know, turn off the popcrap radio and tune in to knowledge.

VPN by Private Internet Access

Government agencies and large corporations are using our own technology against our interests, building data profiles and making decisions about our freedoms based on them. While not a solution to this glaring problem, it gets you out of the problem: subscribe to a virtual private network (VPN) service that encrypts all data and obfuscates your location by changing your IP. One of the best providers is Private Internet Access. This may slow your data connection, use more battery than without, and use some processor time, but it’s worth it. Connect all of your machines through their servers. Upgrade yourself from pawn to queen. Check out this LifeHacker article: Why You Should Start Using a VPN.

Have some suggestions for this list? Of course you do, everyone does. Submit it to the comments and maybe someone will listen.

Hey, check out my cool new smartphone!

Ice Bucket Challenge Donations

Yeah, the family jewels have returned from whence they came.

The ice bucket challenges have great effects. Let’s make those effects count by researching which charities use donations responsibly and are in the greatest need. Sound daunting? I’ve got you covered, as I’ve already done the work. Donate to one or more of the following charities. Their causes are some of the most needed in our society today, and they are some of the most efficient with regards to funds not going directly to their projects (administerial, advertising, etc.).

Institute of International Education
http://www.iie.org/
DONATE
Founded in 1919, the Institute of International Education (IIE) is among the world’s largest and most experienced international education and training organizations. We are committed to delivering program excellence to a diverse range of participants, sponsors, and donors. Our mission is to promote closer educational relations between the people of the United States and those of other countries; strengthen and link institutions of higher learning globally; rescue threatened scholars and advance academic freedom; and to build leadership skills and enhance the capacity of individuals and organizations to address local and global challenges.
charitynavigator.org review of IIE

International Rescue Committee
http://www.rescue.org/
DONATE
Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a global leader in emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights, post-conflict development, resettlement services and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression. The IRC is a critical global network of first responders, humanitarian relief workers, healthcare providers, educators, community leaders, activists, and volunteers. Working together, we provide access to safety, sanctuary, and sustainable change for millions of people whose lives have been shattered by violence and oppression. The IRC is on the ground in 42 countries, providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster.
charitynavigator.org review of IRC

Direct Relief
http://www.directrelief.org/
DONATE
Founded in 1948, Direct Relief International is California’s largest international humanitarian nonprofit organization. Direct Relief provides medical assistance to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty and disaster – at home and throughout the world. Since 2000, Direct Relief has responded to a wide range of urgent and ongoing health emergencies, by providing more than $1.6 billion in essential material resources – medicines, supplies and equipment, including more than $250 million in assistance in the United States.
charitynavigator.org review of Direct Relief

Project C.U.R.E.‏
http://projectcure.org/
DONATE
Project C.U.R.E. was founded in 1987 to help bridge staggering health resource gaps in the developing world by matching medical supplies and modern equipment with facilities in need to empower doctors and nurses with the tools they need to treat disease, deliver vaccines, perform life-changing surgeries and ensure safe childbirth. Project C.U.R.E. operates distribution centers in Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Arizona and collects excess supplies and specialized equipment from hundreds of U.S. hospitals and medical manufacturers, giving them the opportunity to redirect their surplus in an environmentally-friendly way. Thanks to the dedication of thousands of volunteers nationwide, two to three cargo containers of life-saving aid leave Project C.U.R.E.’s warehouses every week. Today, Project C.U.R.E. is the world’s largest distributor of donated medical supplies and equipment to healthcare facilities in resource-limited communities in 130 countries.
charitynavigator.org review of Project C.U.R.E.

Heart to Heart International
http://www.hearttoheart.org/
DONATE
Heart to Heart International is improving global health through humanitarian initiatives that connect people and resources to a world in need. We have a global mission to create a healthier world. Every year, we make a positive impact in the lives of millions of people in more than 60 countries, including the United States. We develop humanitarian programs that promote health and wellness. We deliver results in these programs using two key strategies – the energy of volunteers and equity of strategic partners. We help volunteers and partners alike make a quality humanitarian connection to a world in need.
charitynavigator.org review of HtHI

What does blue feel like? The consciousness conundrum

We may soon be able to say what is happening in the brain as a result of and to cause specific feelings and actions, such as what would make someone feel shame and what neurons fire to make that happen. No scientific paper will soon describe this process such that the reader can embody this feeling, however. “[We may be able to tell] that you are looking at a painting of sunflowers, but then, if I thwacked your shin with a hammer, your screams would tell me you were in pain. Neither lets me know what pain or sunflowers feel like for you, or how those feelings come about. In fact, they don’t even tell us whether you really have feelings at all.”

Even if we can describe in perfect detail every wheel and cog in the brain, how they are connected and how they work, we still wouldn’t know how consciousness works. Just as our mathematical language was not yet capable of describing solutions to some questions in the past, our thoughts are not yet capable of abstractly describing consciousness. “The question of how the brain produces the feeling of subjective experience, the so-called ‘hard problem’, is a conundrum so intractable that one scientist I know refuses even to discuss it at the dinner table.”

To make matters more complicated, our description of reality may need an update before we can proceed. From James Hopwood Jeans speculating in 1930 that “the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine” to philosophical extrapolations on the existance of quantum observer effects, the idea that consciousness creates reality around us rather than the other way around keeps injecting itself into modern science.

Michael Hanlon expands on these thoughts and questions in the article ‘The mental block: Can we get our heads around consciousness?’
http://www.aeonmagazine.com/being-human/will-we-ever-get-our-heads-round-consciousness/

Open-access scientific journals not so scientific

In the past the public was duped by advertisements showing actors in scientists’ and doctors’ lab coats. Today, the wool being pulled over our eyes comes in the form of unscrupulous scientific journals with no peer review. Our trust of publications by well-known journals is being abused, as well as leveraged against those submitting for underserved profit.

John Bohannon had a (purposefully) glaringly flawed paper accepted, indicating no peer review, to 157 of 255 open-access journals. Of those that did perform a review, for 16 of 36 whose reviews recognized the problems with the paper, the editors accepted them anyway. Failures include big names: Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, Sage and Kobe University.

Open-access scientific publication journals are good for the scientific community and therefor society. “The question is how to achieve it. The most basic obligation of a scientific journal is to perform peer review, arXiv founder Ginsparg says.”

Skepticism is healthy. The next time you come across conclusions based on or from an online scientific journal, look a bit closer. What are their methods? Are the conclusions irrefutably supported by the observations? What is missing? What is being hidden? Nowadays we are all scientists with a trove of information and processing ability at our disposal. Let’s use it.

Who’s Afraid of Peer Review? by John Bohannon
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6154/60.full

How much control are we allowed to have?

The movie Gattaca describes a discriminatory world where high class society conceives in vitro preceded by rigorous phenotypic selection [and explores the social ramifications]. We cannot yet select for specific phenotypes like intelligence, creativity or beauty, but if we could, we would. Such is the state of in vitro fertilization as Scott Carney describes it in this article.

The question is not about where the line should be drawn in regards to newborn engineering, but the ethical issues that arise from selecting and farming women around the globe for their eggs. The issue is one other than financial parity; one other than exploitation. The fact that an educated American woman can sell her eggs for $50’000 while “an uneducated Ukrainian” would get “a few hundred dollars” is still alarming, but arises from a separate unfortunate facet of modern society. The question comes from the other end, that of the chooser. Should we have the ability to choose phenotypes? To what degree, to what precision?

Surely we can agree that selecting for disease and disorder prevention is ethical. Isn’t it? What defines a disorder, exactly? Should all forms of autism be screened out in the future, or do people who exhibit these traits add to their experience and our society regardless of popular or “scientific opinion” on their net effect? Who gets to decide, and who must obey?

Unpacking the Global Human Egg Trade, by Scott Carney
http://www.fastcompany.com/1676895/unpacking-global-human-egg-trade

Choose Your Own Philosophy

Can you spare an hour for an interesting journey within your mind?

‘Castle, Forest, Island, Sea’ is a choose-your-own-adventure story that explores key questions in philosophy. There are nine chapters exploring key questions in philosophy and it will take approximately 30-60 minutes to complete your adventure. As you navigate through the story, the game will build up an idea of how you feel about these questions, and at the end of the game you’ll receive an analysis of your choices and a map of how your opinions compare to different philosophers through the ages.

Choose your own philosophy adventure by Carolyn Price of the philosophy department at The Open University
http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/philosophy/choose-your-own-philosophy-adventure

Do you live in a cage or a park?

What if the difference between not being addicted and being addicted was the difference between seeing the world as your park and seeing the world as your cage?

Rat Park drug experiment cartoon, by Stuart McMillen
http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/rat-park/

It’s not the morphine, it’s the size of the cage: Rat Park experiment upturns conventional wisdom about addiction, by Garry Tan
Original scientific paper, “The effect of housing and gender on morphine self-administration in rats” (non-free).

Global Storytelling

Empathy can expand your consciousness and experiences far beyond your self, and can effect great positive change in groups of people. We cry when Forrest Gump’s wife Jenny dies, we cheer when our sister graduates, we feel compassion after volunteering to work coffee fields with small children. We don’t feel much for strangers, especially those very far away. What can fill this gap in order to create a better space? Maptia says that good storytelling can do it. The world shrinks every day as we crawl towards a future for all.

The only true voyage, the only bath in the fountain of youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees. That each of them is…

The Age of Outrospection, by Jonny Miller
http://blog.maptia.com/posts/the-age-of-outrospection

What do you desire?

Emily Witt writes on her experiences shadowing Kink.com and others’ activities as she searches for her sexuality, her meaning of love, and what she wants in a relationship. Fantastically written. Arguments and counters, introspections and external observations, and carefully specific descriptions are so skillfully combined I would recommend the article just to learn from her prose.

n+1: What Do You Desire? by Emily Witt
http://nplusonemag.com/what-do-you-desire

Statistics Can Solve Almost Anything

Statistical and applied probability is the “logic of science”, but let’s not be suckers. Real life is more complex.

Statistical and applied probabilistic knowledge is the core of knowledge; statistics is what tells you if something is true, false, or merely anecdotal; it is the “logic of science”; it is the instrument of risk-taking; it is the applied tools of epistemology; you can’t be a modern intellectual and not think probabilistically—but… let’s not be suckers. The problem is much more complicated than it seems to the casual, mechanistic user who picked it up in graduate school. Statistics can fool you. In fact it is fooling your government right now. It can even bankrupt the system (let’s face it: use of probabilistic methods for the estimation of risks did just blow up the banking system).

The Forth Quadrant: A Map Of The Limit Of Statistics, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
http://edge.org/conversation/the-fourth-quadrant-a-map-of-the-limits-of-statistics