Ask Dr. Root: How to Theme Notification Items Using MetaMorph

Dr. Root, I love my theme but if I could change just a couple of notification items it would be perfect. Please help!

*FOR ROOTED USERS ONLY (instructions)

*Please make a backup before proceeding. (As always this comes with risk. Droid Life is not responsible for dead phones, ruined marriages, etc.)

*This should work for most rooted android devices, but be sure to read comments and warnings wherever you get your meta-morph zips from.

Today, I wanted to change a couple of notification items on my Droid X while running  Bgill’s Incognito, which for the most part I love. Seeing as I can’t theme to save my life, I needed a quick and easy way to make changes. Yes, I know I could just flash an update.zip but the changes I wanted were one or 2 things and didnt feel like changing the whole theme just for that.

I decided to dig out MetaMorph which is a program that has been around for quite some time and is probably overlooked.   (more…)

App Review: *Spark (Beta)

Screenshot of *Spark (Beta) Screenshot of *Spark (Beta)

Spark you say? What’s that? Spark is a new player in the home replacement game. This is currently in beta and definitely needs some work, but for the social user it may be right up your alley. Spark has a simple premise, your info in one place and easy to access.

Spark uses a simple scrollable environment that is controlled by modules with each module representing information on your screen. Currently there are limited modules and no way to add more at the present time, but with the ability to pick and choose your modules you could tailor your screen to better suit your needs. A nice feature that I have not seen anywhere else yet is a looping app drawer. The headlines module is also something I liked that features scrollable headlines within the module. Once these are pressed it opens up to show you the rest of the post in a full screen format that is also scrollable.

There is only one screen at present for you to use meaning they are aiming at form and function. The one screen features 3 selectable shortcuts that you can customize to your liking. The weather based on your area is automatically pulled in for you. And last but not least it has an app drawer with shortcuts for the phone and web.

Well here comes the answer to the real question. Should I ditch LauncherPro or ADW for Spark? I would say not just yet. Yes it’s simple and gives you your info right in front of you, but it almost feels like an alpha release rather than a beta. With some refinement and a smoothing over of the UI as well as a library of modules that you could pick and choose from, it may be the perfect home replacement for the busy on the go person who needs to access their info quickly. If you can’t resist trying out new stuff I have provided a market link and qr code for you all. Also if you decide to try this out stop back by and let us know what you think.

Download:

Download Link

Video: Deadly Chambers on Android

If you are into first person shooters and have been saddened at the lack of quality titles so far on Android, then check out this game called Deadly Chambers.  The developers put over 9 months into this release and were even invited to Google I/O to demo their work.  This game is a fully featured FPS which includes multiple camera angles, assortments of guns, monsters, secrets and so much more. This is the exact type of stuff I hope we see more of in the near Android future.

Demo and $2.99 versions available in the market.

Video Action:

Download:

Download Link

App Roundup: Thunderstorm Live Wallpaper, RemoteDroid, Drop Block

Thunderstorm Live Wallpaper (Free and $0.99):  This weeks live wallpaper is a new submission to the market.  I came across it and simply loved the way it looked.  It gives you a pseudo-realistic lightning storm that travels as you move screens.  The donation version allows you to change the colors and some other settings such as cloud density and number of strikes.  This live wallpaper has a lot of potential and this is a strong showing for a brand new submission.  Recommended for higher end/overclocked devices.

RemoteDroid (Free):  Ever have a feeling while sitting at your computer such as, “Man, I really enjoy my mouse and my phone, but I am simply too lazy to hold both or swap back and forth between the two.”?  I have, and that is why RemoteDroid is the perfect app for me.  It allows me to not only integrate my phone with my computer, it also allows me to be lazy.  RemoteDroid turns your Droid into a multitouch mouse pad that uses your homes wireless network to communicate with your computer.  Simply download the app, download the Java application to your computer and cruise on in to the easy life.  This app is also great for messing with your girlfriends computer from across the room!

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App Roundup: Virtual World Live Wallpaper, No Lock, Mangler

Virtual World Live Wallpaper (Free):  I was digging pretty deep and by now you all know I like to find free stuff to share.  This wallpaper delivers.  Virtual World creates an 3D landscape as your background that moves according to your compass or according to the tilt of your phone.  It travels as you switch screens and generally just looks awesome.  You can customize the level of detail from low to ultra high, and the various shadings, etc.  Maxed out settings make my Droid X kind of cower in fear, however this app was designed with a 2.2 device in mind.  Give it a try and let us know what you think!

No Lock (Free): Do you hate that you have to slide to unlock your phone constantly?  Wish you had nothing to hinder your progress when trying to download that new (insert Emo band here) album from Amazon?  Then guess what this app/widget does!  No Lock is a super stable, super easy, super effective way to get rid of your on screen lock/slider.  This is a no nonsense app that I can really appreciate.

Mangler (Free):  If you are like me and sit around at your computer day in and day out playing with cell phones, you also likely play video games.  It could be assumed you also talk to random people on Ventrillo servers.  Well my friends, I have found a way to break away from the screen and still talk about Icecrown Citadel in real time!  Mangler is an in-phone Ventrillo client that lets you access all the features of Vent.  Walk out into the sunshine knowing that you can now be yelled at by your raid leader even when you are out buying toilet paper.  The features are no filler and simple to use.  Chat and push button talk are both available.

State Farm Pocket Agent (Free):  This is a bit of a departure from the norm, but I feel this app is pretty neat.  Pocket Agent allows you to input your account information from State Farm Insurance and a real time look at your policy no matter where you are.  You can even pay your bill from your phone with the integrated payment feature.  There is also a way to view your insurance card should you get in an accident and cannot find your information in that nasty glove box of yours.  What I found to be the nicest feature however is the ability to record an auto claim, right from the app.  Pocket Agent even finds you repair facilities near you should you need it.

Cestos (Free):  Cestos is a simple game that is played over 3G with an opponent.  The object is to knock his balls into the hole or off the playing field in one of several maps.  The app is straight forward and is much more difficult the more you play and think about it.  There is a lobby for chatting and real time smack talk.  This game is a great way to kill some time, or get abused by teenagers.  Cross platform play with that other phone that we don’t talk about here is coming soon.

Shinobi Barrage (Free):  Do you like shoot ‘em up games?  Of course you do.  Shinobi Barrage is a great example of a classic shoot ‘em up.  The difficulty curve is amazingly rough, however.  I went from Easy directly to Hard and was startled at the difference.  This game is more about your ability to react than your ability to shoot things.  A friendly interface and intuitive controls make it a pleasure to play.

To have your application featured in future Roundups, contact us here.

Review: Tweetdeck Open Beta

My phone plays a large part in retaining my daily sanity. I work at a summer job where there is a lot of downtime, and at the moment I do a lot of switching between my Twitter and Facebook apps to check social streams. While I’ve never been one of those guys to say “Man, I wish I didn’t have to do the arduous process of switching between apps”, I won’t turn down apps that do both jobs well.

I’ll come out and say it: Tweetdeck for Android does that. Amazingly.

Though I had an account, I had never really used Twitter intensely until I installed the Tweetdeck desktop client. The web version’s interface makes is very unwieldly, as you can only see one stream at a time: sometimes friends of mine don’t even notice people are tagging them in posts until way past the fact. Tweetdeck made it easier by sorting different streams into different columns: one for your friends, one for your replies, one for your direct messages and customizable columns for custom searches. Later adding FourSquare and Facebook support, Tweetdeck makes it easy to post and monitor multiple accounts from one suite.

Tweetdeck for Android replicates this well by keeping the column design, which is accessed by swiping from side-to-side, like your home screens. When you start up the app for the first time, it prompts you to add as many accounts as you’d like: currently supported are Twitter (duh), Facebook, Google Buzz and Foursquare. As a result, you can see friends from each network’s posts, which are color-coded for easy viewing. Along the bottom of the home screen are four buttons: from left to right, they allow you to post a new message, manage accounts and view friends (divided by account, or all at once), do a Twitter search and bring up a GPS-enabled map (I’ll come back to this later).

Creating a new post allows you to check off which account you’d like to post the message to. The interface for this is easy to use, as each check-button is color and label-coded, so you don’t confuse accounts. You can attach pictures, location, and search an address book to tag your friends (Twitter only, at the moment) all from one screen. This is everything I expect from a full-featured Twitter client, but being able to post to the other services without having to switch to a widget or app is a great relief.

The account management and friends portion is very robust, allowing for a complete listing of every friend by service and alphabetical order. This is great for messaging specific people, especially when you don’t want to wade through the Twitter web interface’s horribly-sorted mess of icons. You can also write directly to a friend’s Facebook wall from their entry, as well as direct message them on Foursquare.

Also in this part of the app is a listing of your accounts, which allow for a singular view of everything having to do with them; the support for Facebook, Google Buzz and Foursquare is amazing here, even featuring full badge icons and mayorship listings.

Search is very functional, letting you find usernames and hashtags easily. Those hashtag searches can then be added as columns, allowing for real-time tracking. Ultimately, it’s simple, be effective.

Now, I said earlier I would come back to the map, and I’d like to say this: by itself, it has made me uninstall my Foursquare app. The reason is simple: it allows me to view nearby checkins on a map, instead of refreshing an oft-inaccurate list of nearby locations. I like this visual component of the game, as sometimes my GPS will think I’m miles away from where I know I am, and I will have to go into the text search to find my venue. This is a very large improvement over the Foursquare app, even if it requires listings to have accurate addresses. It also lists where friends have checked in by placing their icon on a map, Google Latitude style.  I haven’t been able to see if it works with GPS-enabled Tweets yet, as they do not show up. This would also be a big plus.

The options section is a little lacking, only letting us customize which columns will send a notification to our tray. It would be nice if we had the ability to choose how often they would, but I’m sure that will be included when it comes out of beta. Another desireable feature would be the ability to change the theme, like the desktop client.

But all in all, Tweetdeck has made me go against my rule of loving the first party. They have put together an amazing application that has made me uninstall my Twitter and Foursquare applications from my phone, as really, I don’t need them anymore; Facebook will stay, however, as I need message/photo/event support. Improving systems that already exist by making them easy to use and visually appealing is a sign of great development, and should be what people designing Android apps should strive for.

So go out and sign up for the Tweetdeck open beta; you get an .apk in your confirmation, which you can them use to install your app. Happy tweeting, and feel free to add me @mattdemers.

Matt Demers is a Toronto writer who can’t wait for summer to be over. He writes about Android for Droid-Life and about comics, D&D and other nerdery for NerdGirlPinups.com.

Weekly App Roundup: Launch-X, MultiTask Manager, FlightView

Launch-X (Free and $1.28): Launch-X is a customizable widget for your device.  It allows the user to create their own widget with direct links to applications or contacts for direct calls and more.  You can change the design of the widget to accommodate up to 49 shortcuts in one widget on the pro version.  This app uses a widget that allows scrolling and smaller icons to save you space.  Are you too afraid to use a home replacement or root?  Launch-X can give you some of that sweet screen real estate you have been yearning to get back!

MultiTask Manager (Free):  This task manager takes on a slightly different approach to ATK.  Clicking on MTM enables a task bar to come up on top of your home screen.  This looks much like an iOS / Windows bar with applications on it.  You can click the icons to go to the application or long press to kill them.  Definitely good for those who converted from a WinMo phone to our beloved Droid!

PanoPlanet Live Wallpaper ($1.98):  PanoPlanet Live Wallpaper is a truly interesting experience.  It takes images on your phone and allows you to set them as an interactive wallpaper in a fully 3D view.  As you scroll, or move, or touch, the wallpaper moves in that direction showing you the completely panoramic image.  Thousands of images are available here. To fully explain just what I mean, I am including the video sent by the creator himself!  Enjoy!

PanoPlanet

FlightView (Free and $0.99):  FlightView is something I wish I had a week ago.  This app lets you track flights as they are in the air in real time on your phone.  No more sifting through crummy airline websites.  No more guessing when it is your Step Mother will show her ugly face in the terminal.  FlightView lets you see current weather conditions as well as real time flight times… even when you are sitting at Newark Airport for a half hour because your sister’s flight from Germany ran late coming out of Sweden and you have no A/C in your car and would have left a half hour later if only you had known it was going to be late.  Enjoy!

Edwin, Speech to Speech (Free):  Edwin offers a pretty simple concept.  Press the microphone and ask it to do something.  I asked Edwin to translate “My cat has a nasty looking face.” into French.  I asked it what the weather was.  I asked it to open Pandora.  All these things with just the push of a button.  I can see that this may be something very useful while driving as well as a fun novelty.  The vocabulary is expanding constantly and this app gets better and better the more you play with it!

Red Poker Club (Free):  Now, if you are like my friends, you have a serious gambling addiction.  Red Poker Club offers a real time, real person video poker experience on your Droid.  You can pick the size table you want to play at as well as what kind of blinds you want to start out with.  There is a chat function and the entire thing can be played on 3G!  You get more chips daily so you can always at least play a smaller ante game.  Skill levels are monitored as well so you know where you stand at a table.  So if you can’t manage to make it out to The Bethlehem Sands this evening, try out Red Poker Club!

To have your application featured in future Roundups, contact us here.

Android App Review: Awesome Drop

When it comes to getting files onto your phone, there are numerous options; you have the USB cable that came with your phone, SD card storage, or cloud-based solutions like Dropbox or Zumodrive. These last options store your files on a server for your access; if you delete them off of your phone, they will still remain in the cloud to download later. However, both Dropbox and Zumodrive require the install of a program onto the computer they are syncing files from: this lets communication with the server occur.

However, a new kid on the block, Awesome Drop, has decided to do away with all that. In an interesting development, they have created a simple way for people to transfer files on their phone without having to register for a service on install something. For times when speed is key, this is invaluable.

How the process works is:

  1. A user installs Awesome Drop on their phone.
  2. Then he/she will open labs.dashwire.com in a browser on their computer, which creates a fresh “drop”.
  3. They would then enter the PIN number from that drop page into the app on their phone, creating a partnership.
  4. The user can then drag files into the browser window, transferring them from your computer to phone.

Files are not stored on Dashwire’s servers, so users don’t have to apply for a membership or worry about how much space they are currently taking up.

The process is made possible by HTML5 features contained in modern web browsers. HTML5-enabled Java features allow for both the connection your phone and the easy drag-and-drop interface.

However, there are some caveats. Along with the hard-to-remember URL (developer name instead of app name?), I had some problems opening unfamiliar file formats (such as .cbr comic files) when they were done transferring. This was confusing, as a JPEG asked which program I would like to use to open it, but not the CBR. If it did, I would be able to associated the file with Android Comic Viewer. While I’m not surprised the app has trouble with obscure file formats, it’s a little weird that the option to choose which app to open the file with would be available for one and not the other.

Aside from that, the only problem I have with Awesome Drop is its functionality. If a person is going to use it to keep a music collection synced on their phone, you would use service that allowed the ongoing monitoring of folders on the host computer. Dropbox does this quite well, and keeps my files stored in one central place. By changing the files in my Dropbox folder, I know which files are available and can be transferred to my computer. While the lack of cloud-stored files may help in Awesome Drop’s speed and server costs, the only real use I can see for Awesome Drop is if you need to get a file off of a foreign computer that doesn’t have an SD card reader.

I, however, would like to nominate Awesome Drop for entry into an “Emergency App Toolbox” of sorts: like PDANet for tethering, you never know when you might need hassle-free transfer. Definitely worth an install, just in case.