Archive for July, 2011

My Favorite BlackBerry Apps and Games

Since there is always plenty of talk about how BlackBerry does not have any good applications, I figured I would share my list. This is other than the obvious like BBM or Flixster of course. I have never actually failed to find an application I wanted and have approximately 130 of them on my device. Obviously I don’t use them all every day, but I also only keep the ones I like. How? A small fact most people are not aware of is that there are multiple (3 or 4) app stores for your BlackBerry. Other than BBApp World there are others such as Mobihand SuperStore to get what you need. Also if you cannot find your app on an app store, it is often as simple as a well made Google search. The obvious proof of this is my number one app, which cannot be found on app world.

1: Garmin Mobile. 

Anyone who has ever used a GPS has probably realized how amazing it is. Since the various navigator apps like Telus Navigator or AT&T Navigator are fairly bad implementations, you can rest assured that this is a good purchase. It is smooth in its tracking and easy to use. If you have a torch you can even dock it (iGrip car mounts) in your car just like a regular GPS. I own a mount and can say it sticks to my glass for approximately two months before needing to be re-stuck.

2: Google Maps

I originally was not going to include this. What made me change my mind was the number of people who didn’t know it was for BlackBerry. This is another app that is not contained in app stores. It usually lags about one or two releases behind the Android version for obvious reasons, but it is always smooth and works perfectly.  Keep in mind that to close this app you actually have to hit the menu -> Exit. This beats BBMaps hands down. I do not even have BBMaps installed on my device and most of my programs actually have an option to open in Google Maps instead.

3: Pattern Lock

For anyone who is a fan of the way Android and iPhone have touch based unlocking, there is Pattern Lock for a BlackBerry way. Pattern lock mimics the Android version allowing for a seamless lock pattern. The way I use as a security overly-conscious person is to have my native lock on max timeout and the Pattern Lock app on a short timeout. This means that if I lose my phone it will be password locked when someone finds it and even if they figure that password out they will have to then put in the pattern. On the other hand on a normal day I check my phone at least once every few hours and thus only ever have to put in the pattern and not the text password. It is fully theme-able and available on app world. As a final note, it also has the ability to override the default lock button behavior and thus this application will be called when the button on the top of your phone is hit.

4: Fancy Widgets

This app allows widgets to be put on your home screen. It comes with a list which gets a new set every once in a while. This is somewhat similar to the Android. It is smooth and very simple to set up.

5: Vlingo

This is a fairly decent text to speech application for your texts. I use it while I’m on the road and using Garmin. I have a bluetooth visor mount that reads my texts using Vlingo  and my Garmin directions while I’m driving over my car speakers. I only use the free version, but if you want all the fancy features like the Android has it’ll need to be purchased.

6: Reuters News and Galleries

My favorite news application has to be Reuters. I read it daily as well as get feeds from them in my “Blackberry News Feeds” app. The Galleries are filled with fairly incredible pictures most of the time that are not always found on their website.

7: Kindle

I have Kindle for Blackberry so that my whole family can share one library of books. I use it in conjunction with “Backlight Pro” so that it stays lit while reading. My other members of my family have a Kindle DX and using my Blackberry does not interfere with their reading (They turned off the page sync between all devices).

8: Slacker Radio

This application is native (i.e. Built in) to the OS. It is almost the same as Pandora but you don’t need the pain of a VPN like  HotSpot Shield to listen to it. It is internet radio that builds lists of music you will like based on you clicking the little heart icon. You start with a band you already like, and say <3 to all the songs it chooses you like. After an hour or so of listening to it you will likely no longer hear any music you don’t like. I listen to it while reading the Kindle App.

9: Shazam

Shazam is now for the Torch. I am loving it. It works flawlessly and for those who don’t know what it is, it tells you the name and information for any song you are listening to wherever you are and from whatever source by listening to a snippet of the song and comparing it to a database of song “Signatures”.

10: Font Collection

It is fairly self explanatory. It is a collection of additional fonts to add to your device.

As for games? I don’t play many on my phone but a few of the ones I like (Other than BrickBreaker)  are:

1: Dots

This is the old game you used to play on paper. Try to make lines between the dots and be the one to fill in the squares ahead of your partner or AI.

2: Copter

The old game from that addicting games website. The exact clone of the helicopter flying side-scroller.

3: Final Fantasy I and FF2

I played and mostly wrapped both the games that were cloned and ported to BlackBerry. Brought back many memories of time spent in the 90’s

4: The Simpsons Arcade

A port of the classic arcade game again from the 90’s. Waiting for a movie used to be as fun as the movie itself.

5: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

This is a perfect port of the classic Sonic game. It works flawlessly for anyone that managed to download it prior to the licensing problem. Check the app world reviews before downloading as it may not be currently working and you may be left with a demo. The demo is incredible, but purchasing a demo kind of sucks.

6: Nintaii

This is my favorite game. I saved the best for last. Its a pure 3D puzzle game where the goal is to get a block into a hole across a board by moving it through obstacles. My description sounds boring, just play the game if you like any active puzzles.

If you have any questions about how I found apps like these, let me know! Any questions welcome. Hopefully this will cut down on the emails with questions about why there are no apps available.

 

-Devin

It Is Not Work to Live, Its Live to Work

I recently finished furthering my education and am currently looking for a full time permanent job. It has left me reflecting on the things I learned during my time as a contract developer at RIM. As this was my first real job I had a lot to learn. The number one lesson that I learned is that I do in fact love what I do. Working there, which is an amazing company despite the news, I learned a lot of things about myself. I found myself enjoying working unpaid voluntary overtime because of the hope that what I did had the ability to affect millions of people’s lives or to be a part of something that was already doing so. Just to be a part of that meant more to me than nearly any raise they could have given me. This is most likely the same passion that I see people entering med school feeling. They have the ability to seriously affect peoples lives in what is hopefully a positive way. Some people reading this may think that it is egotistical to compare my profession of scientists and software engineers to the respected medical profession. Even though it is biased to say so as a member of the former demographic, I don’t think it is. The general feeling I get whenever I talk to people is that few actually know what it takes to build a piece of technology for their lives. Software engineers and computer scientist’s handiwork  is everywhere.  Everything from your microwave to your weigh-scale has, often quite complex, software on it. This has affected my initial job search in one of a few different ways. The first way is that I find I cannot settle for anything that will have little impact after working at a place like RIM. My time there has heightened my dreams and ambitions that anything that I deem less would be mundane and lack fulfillment. I do not wish to simply work just to put food on my plate. This is not to say that I cannot find fulfillment in smaller companies working on smaller projects. It is simply saying, for example, that I would have trouble going back to my first job of cleaning the fryers at KFC. I want to create. I want what I create, or help create, to change peoples lives.

This has affected my job search by making me wary of which companies I apply to. I have only been applying to companies that strike a cord with me by displaying a true belief in what they create. It is very easy to tell which companies collectively enjoy what they do compared to who works because they have to. Hopefully this selectivity on my part will pan out as this is the one point I really hope to not be forced to concede in the interest of continuing to have a place to live.

 

Developer Since 2005

B.Sc Computer Science

University of Lethbridge

Devin Forbes

 

 

Terminal SSH Client For BlackBerry

Finally there is a high quality terminal application made specifically for Blackberry. I can finally administer via SSH anything I need whether it be restarting my server or to ftp/edit a file on my website. For some reason it is not on app world though. There is another one there but it costs money and doesn’t always work properly. Kudo’s to the maker of  BBSSH (http://bbssh.org/) as it worked flawlessly. I originally planned to review this application however… in the words of Apple: it just works.

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INFORMATION

I do not adhere to a schedule. I post when I have something to say. I'm a programmer who in my spare time enjoys contemplating the meaning of life, the universe and, everything. So there will be code as well as random little stories, essays and, musing about whatever interests me at the moment.