Friday, December 23, 2011

Review of Speed Launcher (Android version)

So, there is now an Android in my pocket; a Samsung Galaxy S Plus.  It is very shiny, with a lovely big bright screen.  It navigates beautifully, makes a great games platform and a pretty fair web browser.  It is a good way to check e-mail. It is much coveted. It takes lovely (HD!) video... and, sometimes, I even use it to make phone calls.

And here is the strange thing.  Every other phone I have owned was mostly a number pad.  The designer, understanding that the thing was for phone calls, made it as fast and easy as possible to get those calls made.  Your average Android, however essentially a very small tablet computer, with comparable processing and storage and only slightly fewer pixels on the screen. The making of phone calls is an afterthought - just another app that you might fit in between your browsing, mailing and gaming.

So, actually making a call is a bit of a trek through the interface.  First, there is the unlocking - one button push, followed by several swipes across that gorgeous screen; then there is the opening of the contacts app, the searching out of the contact, and finally, the choosing what to do with the contact - would sir like to phone, or e-mail, or text?  Perhaps a video call?

This is where Speed Launcher (available in premium and lite (free) versions) comes in.  This app becomes your lock screen and gives you a rotary dial with slots for up to nine of your favourite contacts. Touch and spin, just like those analog rotary phones of olden times, and off you go.  Other buttons in the center of the dial give speedy access to favourite apps and phone settings.

Overall, I'm impressed.  The spinning dial is a bit of a gimmick... but it is a pretty and effective gimmick.  Go on - give it a whirl...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wander Alarm

Dementia plays many an unkind trick; one of the more dangerous is wandering. When you find a parent or spouse leaving the house half-dressed in the middle of the night, it's clear you are very close to having a tragedy on your hands.

No-one can stay vigilant and sleep; I needed a technical fix. I considered special locks, but I'm not happy with the idea of a door that can't be opened really quickly and easily in the event of a fire. Also, I wanted something subtle; I'm very sensitive to the indignities that dementia inflicts, and didn't want to add any conspicuous this-is-to-stop-you-escaping hardware.

I finally settled on a wireless infrared motion detector which sets off a chime unit. I actually started drawing up a parts list so I could build one myself, but was relieved to find a ready-made version already for sale on Amazon, sold as a handy way to detect arrivals (burglars, customers) rather than departures.

A month on, and I'm now confident the problem is solved. The sensors (wireless) were easy to install, the chime is loud, and the monitor is conveniently portable - whoever is "on duty" for the night can carry it to their bedroom.

I was wrong about the "inconspicuous" bit, though: the man the alarm is intended to save now refers to it as "the Dad-catcher". Kind of a you've-got-to-laugh-or-you'ld-cry moment.