Mel Reams

Nerrrrd

App + tweak of the day

One of the Android apps I use most often – to be fair, that’s because you set it up once and leave it alone – is Twilight. It’s basically f.lux for Android. Technically f.lux for Android is f.lux for Android, but it only works for some phones and requires root.

f.lux (and Twilight) if you haven’t already heard of it, automatically changes the colour balance of your screen to a warmer, more restful shade when the sun goes down. It’s supposed to help you sleep, which I honestly couldn’t say if it actually does, but I personally like it because it feels more restful to my eyes.

That’s great if you’re running Android, Windows, or Mac, but what if you have an iOS device? Well, if you’re willing to jailbreak it you can get f.lux, but if you can’t or don’t want to, you can use this trick to dim your screen. It’s not the same, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

One last thing to note: because Twilight is a screen overlay, Android won’t let you install anything while it’s running, even if it’s not currently changing the colour of your screen. That totally makes sense from a security standpoint, but I wish it would display an error message instead of just silently refusing to do as it’s told. If, for example, you happened to spend an afternoon cursing at your phone because it mysteriously refused to let you install a test build so you could do some debugging, that would be why. Turn off Twilight and magically things will start working again :)

Relaxation app of the day

Remember that delightfully sweary “F*ck that, an honest meditation” video? It’s an Android and iOS app now! As silly as it sounds, it really does help me relax. I find that relentlessly cheerful “everything is great!” guided meditations just annoy me when everything is not great, even if “not great” is sometimes as minor as having fought with a badly documented API all day. The F*ck that video and app really work for me because they don’t lie about everything being great, they tell you that you can be okay even when things suck. Plus, who doesn’t love a guided meditation that refers to your life as a three-ring shitshow?

The app itself is very basic, you choose a meditation length from two to fifteen minutes and that’s it. It’s also only $2, so why not give it a shot?

Android app of the day

One of my very favourite Android apps is actually one of the ones I use the least. Gentle Alarm does what it says on the tin, it wakes you up gently instead of startling you awake like normal alarms. I don’t know about you but I really hate starting my day grumpy about how I got jolted awake.

Gentle Alarm is a bit more complicated to set up than the usual “blare loud noises” alarms, but I think it’s worth it not to wake up angry. I also don’t completely trust the “safe alarm” option – last time I tested it, which to be fair was ages ago, it was barely loud enough to hear. I’d still set a regular alarm for when you seriously need to be upright – it’s still annoying, but not nearly as bad as starting with the “blare loud noises” option.

There’s also a free version to test it out. The free version doesn’t ring on Wednesdays, but since it’s Thursday you’ve got almost a week to test it out :)

Android app of the day

Smartphones are freaking amazing for absent minded people like me. I’ve been able to give people the totally false impression that I’m organized because I put reminders for absolutely every appointment into my calendar :) Another way I trick people into thinking I can remember to do things is by using a handy little android app called toastr (sorry iOS users, there doesn’t seem to be a version for you).

Toastr does one thing and one thing only. Every time you unlock your phone, it pops up a little notification with whatever text you set. That’s it. The interface is gloriously simple and requires absolutely no screwing around in convoluted settings menus. If you need a quick, easy reminder to do something (calendar reminders are great but they’re slow to enter and sometimes you don’t know exactly when you’re going to be able to do the thing), toastr is just about the perfect solution.

Toastr is also really satisfying from a design perspective. It knows what it’s for and doesn’t try to be all things to all people. It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t waste my time asking what it should look like. You can get a pro version of toastr for 99 cents that does have some largely useless notification customization features, but I can understand why the developer felt compelled to add more features to the pro version and at least it doesn’t beat you over the head with them.

If you need a really simple reminder now and then, give toastr a try.

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