Yearly Archives: 2010

Me Time

Today I got two whole hours to myself – all alone! No kids, no phone, and no pressing tasks to complete. I went to the local coffee shop and enjoyed lunch, tried my first chai latte, and spent some time alone with God. I’m so glad that my husband encouraged me to do it, when I was considering doing something more stressful with the time by myself.

I love being able to stay home with my children everyday, but a day or even a few hours away from my children every once and awhile is essential and very refreshing.

Not just a phone

When is a phone not just a phone? Even my previous ‘dumb phones’ could play my audiobooks and let me check out google/facebook (albeit with a bit of a hassle), but a smart-phone can carry your whole music library, access any website you need, be a portable gaming system/camera/watch/calendar/mailbox, and loads of other things all at once! Here are a few things beyond the obvious: Continue reading Not just a phone

HTC Desire rooted and modded = AWESOME!

I took the plunge and rooted and modded my phone. I guess my warranty is void (until someone releases US Cellular’s RUU files), but if nothing’s gone wrong in two months, I’m probably good. I still haven’t figured out all the things I can do with this, but so far, it feels like I have a brand new phone!

First things first: rooting is not the same as modding.  Rooting gives you access to the entire system to do fun things like change the CPU speed, backup your entire phone image, access the system partition (remove bloatware!), and install mods. A mod changes your phone, usually by installing a custom operating system. I rooted, changed my partition tables, AND installed CyanogenMod 6.1.

Root Programs (that I use, there are obviously others, like screenshot programs, cache clearers, etc.)

  • setCPU allows you to over- or under-clock your phone. Since the HTC Desire is awesome anyway, I use it to underclock when the phone is not in use (or not doing anything heavy). The result – better battery life!
  • Titanium Backup – Can back up not only applications, but their data too. This means you can restore an app to a previous version, or just restore your phone EXACTLY the way you had it before, without relying on every app’s unique (if not nonexistent) import/export functionality. This comes in handy when you’re wiping your phone to install a new mod.
  • AdFree – block ads across your phone (examine your conscience, as some developers rely on these ads for income… better yet, buy the donate version of apps you really like)
  • Terminal Emulator – who doesn’t want a terminal on their phone???

Partition Tables (Highly specific to the HTC Desire… don’t bother if your phone has 4/8gigs of internal memory)

There’s not much to say here… except when I first received my phone, I had just over 100mb for installing apps. After following a slightly modified version of what’s been come to known as Firerat’s cMTD method, I had 280mb free for apps. That coupled with Froyo will keep me going for awhile!

CyanogenMod

If you love compiling your linux installs from scratch and figuring out every little hardware detail… you’re free to roll-your-own Android install. For the rest of us, there are custom mods pre-built, and one that’s guaranteed to work on the HTC Desire is CyanogenMod. It’s essentially a customized Froyo ROM, so in addition to getting the Froyo upgrade early (we US Cellular customers are still waiting…), you get a few extra bonuses. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Unlock via the OJ (optical joystick) – coming from an iPod Touch, this is a very welcome feature
  • Torch – use the flash like a flashlight (standard Froyo, I believe)
  • Freely tether your internet via USB, wifi, or Bluetooth
  • Dismiss meetings from the snooze alert
  • Notification bar themes / settings
  • 270 degree rotation (finally!)

There are a few other features that do similar things that I get from Tasker, and the default launcher is ADWLauncher, a worthy alternative to Launcher Pro (though I still prefer the latter). Since I was already using Launcher Pro Plus, I don’t especially miss HTC Sense, though I had to find a replacement dialer (Dialer One is excellent).

Ready to make your HTC Desire even more of a super-phone? This thread has all the details in an excellently-laid-out guide.

How many phone numbers are too many?

Geek & Poke - 3 Phones
I thought this summed up my situation well

So I recently revealed I have over 10 e-mail addresses I check regularly. Did you know we (the family) have 5 phone numbers as well? Actually, there are 8 ways to reach us via phone, but three don’t really count (okay, most don’t really count).

  • Amanda’s Cell – Pretty obvious. If you know us or are her Facebook friend, you have this.
  • Benjamin’s Cell – Ditto (it ends in BEN, isn’t that neat?)
  • Benjamin’s Work – Really only Amanda needs it, but it counts. Technically you can call the front desk, so that’s 2 numbers, but my direct dial should generally be the only one used.
  • Flessner Home – This one’s new. We’re still trying to get the kinks worked out, but soon enough we’ll reveal it to family members. It’s just a Google Voice account that rings both of our phones… if you’re in our contact list. Otherwise it just goes to voice mail. And the number’s really cool* (in my nerdish sort of way).
  • Benjamin’s Google Voice – For a long time, I had a GrandCentral-then-Google-Voice number that I only used for SPAMish purposes (registering for free cars in malls and whatnot) and then more recently as a voicemail replacement. Then we got the ‘Flessner’ number, so this one was a little superfluous. Then I found out that using Google Voice as a real forwarding number AND as a voicemail replacement doesn’t always work (call cell, voicemail forwards to GVoice, forwards to cell, which forwards back to GVoice… :shudder:).  So now my cell phone’s voice mail forwards to my private Google Voice number which always goes to voice mail. As an added bonus, this is the account I setup on my Android phone, so I can send text messages for free from it (so it’s worth knowing if I ever text you). Oh, and I got a new number, too: 515-DIGIBEN 🙂

I also have a VoxOx number as a text/voice forwarding number because Google Voice doesn’t let you link a cell phone to multiple accounts. It doesn’t work so well, though, and unless this fall’s upgrade improves things, I may be looking for something else (any ideas anyone?). In any case, now that my Google Voice app connects to my private Google voice account, there’s not much need for this anymore.

And I wonder why Amanda thinks I’m crazy sometimes. 🙂

*Flessner Home – It’s 4242-Flessner (don’t count). It’s pretty much the best cross-Ben/Amanda thing we could come up with. I figured you could laugh about it (HA-HA-FLESSNER) or because I’m the baby of the family, perhaps GA-GA-FLESSNER. It wasn’t until later that I realized it included the answer to life, the universe, and everything twice!

School Begins

This fall is going to be busy busy in the Flessner house. Hannah has started her second year of preschool and is going four days a week in the afternoons. And the one day that she doesn’t go to school she will have a dance class. This is her very first dance class and she is so excited for it to start. Hannah is definitely our little ballerina!! This week we got her ballet slippers and she wears them every chance that she gets.

I don’t know if this busy schedule is harder on the two youngest who try to nap in the afternoons or on mom who has already had to wake them up a few times in order to pick up big sister from school. Late afternoons are always the hard part of the day for all of us for some reason anyway and now it is even longer. Gone are the naps until 4pm, since Hannah needs to be picked up by 3pm. It’s so tempting to just let them sit in front of the television all afternoon. I guess this is just another change that we all have to adapt to.

One Week With Android

Now that my wife is posting regularly, perhaps I should resume my technobabble-related ramblings. I’ve been the happy owner of a US Cellular HTC Desire for a week now and am loving every minute of it. Being back at US Cellular with all the related perks has been awesome as well.

Let’s get the gripes out of the way early… I really have only two, and they’re common to many Android users: battery life and storage space. I sometimes have trouble making it through the day, but I still have some tweaks to try and really, the iOS4 already prepped me by killing my iPod Touch’s battery life. Plus with USC, I can get a new battery for free anytime I want! Storage space for apps is atrocious, though only compared to what I’m coming from (having all 32gigs available to me). I patiently await Froyo 2.2 to alleviate this concern.

The great stuff? Being off Apple will be a nice relief. Most of my gripes with the iPod are taken care of by default. And despite earlier posts, having data available everywhere has already proved very useful (and not just for Pandora, which has become my default music-listening option). Plus I now have a decent camera always available as well as GPS for the occasional trip to unknown locations (and perhaps a new family geocaching hobby that may or may not take off). What really makes it amazing, though, is everything it can do that iPhone can’t:

Tasker – ~$6 ($5 direct from developer)

As one of my coworkers this thing makes your phone a true “smart” phone. With so many options a programmer would love, I haven’t even begun to figure out everything this can do for me, but here’s a start:

  • Automatic silent mode during meetings (driven off calendar) and during church (fixed time)
  • Insert headphones = popup instant menu of media apps (actually this popup menu thing can also be used as a much nicer implementation of folders)
  • Auto-enable GPS when loading maps (or any) app; disable it when done
  • Auto-lower volume when a certain high-volume family member calls
  • Custom Alarms (I actually did this just to get the permanent alarm icon off my notification bar, but you can play any song, support advanced snooze/shutoff/etc.)
  • Auto-updating battery status widget
  • Read aloud messages received while driving
  • Tons more!

LauncherPro – FREE ($2.99 upgrade option)

Sense is pretty and all, but do I really need a clock taking up half my home screen? And that’s really all it is. LauncherPro lets you customize the way you launch apps and organize your home screens, but it’s so much more than that.

  • Hide apps in the drawer – why list them there when they’re on your home screen or bloatware pre-installed on your phone? If you really want one back, search is your friend.
  • Custom dock: 5 shortcut keys to do whatever you want. Basically like the iOS  dock except you can put any Launcher shortcut in there. Oh, and have two actions for each icon. (I click on phone, it takes me to the dialer. I slide across the icon and it loads my contacts.)
  • Activity shortcuts and Profiles – more programming wizardry, but you can create a dock or homescreen icon to take you to a particular settings page in any app. And with profiles (I haven’t even checked this out yet), you can create automated scripted tasks, too.
  • Resizable Widgets (upgrade) – Minimal use but cool when applicable. I have a 4×1 power strip with 6 toggles on it. But I can shrink it to 3×1 or even 2×1, and it still works fine!
  • LauncherPro Widgets (upgrade) – The best things about sense (except the ugly clock.. yet), but being actively developed and with multiple size options. I like the agenda view mainly, and am looking forward to the friendstreamesque (facebook+twitter) widget next week.

Google Voice

US Cellular has free incoming texts, but I don’t want to pay for a texting plan. But in Android, I can text from any app that hooks into text messaging by using Google Voice instead of the standard messaging app. The drawback is my Voice # shows up, but realistically, the only person I ever text is Amanda, who already knows it. Also, with an app like

Google Voice Callback, I can essentially call for free (because, oh yeah, US Cellular has free incoming minutes, too). I probably won’t use that too much unless we get close to our minutes, since we have a pretty low plan for now. (They text us when we get close, too).

Aldiko

While this app is not quite as full-featured as Stanza on iOS, it still lets me download free books automatically. And change the hardware brightness (oh wait, iOS doesn’t let you do that). And add book-shortcuts to your homescreen. And turn pages with the volume keys (apps get banned for that by Apple).

This just after one week! Give me a couple months and we’ll really see what this thing can do!

Alternative Input Methods

I haven’t played around too much with this, but you can replace the keyboard with different systems including Swype (which I hear is awesome…if it ever comes out of closed beta). Plus just tap a key on the keyboard and speak what you want to say. I guess there’s some speech recognition for iOS but it’s no good if the iPod Touch doesn’t have a microphone.

Like I said, I’ve just scratched the surface, but already I can do so much more than just browse the Internet on my phone. Exciting times are ahead!

Nursing Home Visits

I have made an effort to visit one of the nursing homes in our town several times in the last month. I was a little apprehensive at first because going to talk to people you don’t know, no matter how sweet they are, is a little disconcerting for me. It requires me to step out of my comfort zone, but I know that the experience is helping me to grow. And I love that my girls get to join me on these adventures. My oldest two girls love talking to the elderly. Although sometimes I think they come just to see the residents’ pet cat and the big cage of birds. Already we are getting to know just a few of the residents and although they don’t necessarily remember us from one visit to the next I feel like we are making a difference.
I thank God that He led me to share just a little bit of my time with the elderly. Now if I could just figure out the best way to spend the rest of my time…

Food Pantry

I discovered something that I thought was pretty cool this summer. I can donate our fresh garden produce to the local food pantry. This is so great for all of those extra zucchini that I have been getting but can’t use up fast enough. And I’ve found that I just don’t use enough zucchini to justify freezing it.
Last year our church planted a garden and they donated everything they grew to the food pantry. I don’t know why it took me a whole year to make that connection.
So if you have a bunch of zucchinis that you are considering leaving on someone’s front porch during the night or putting in their car when they aren’t looking – you can stop sneaking around and take your abundance of beautiful squash to the local food pantry too!
Or any other extra produce you might have…

Swimming

I have spent a lot of time at our city pool this summer. Which is funny considering that we only went once, maybe twice, last summer and never before that.

At the end of June, Hannah had her first swim class, which consisted of lessons Monday through Thursday for 2 weeks. Hannah was a little uncomfortable in the water at first, but she really started to enjoy it by the end. Didn’t quite get the courage to jump off the diving board yet.

Then Samantha got to take swim lessons too; her and Daddy did the Parent/ Child course that is offered for small children in the evenings – also for 2 weeks. Samantha loved having her first school-type activity. Finally she was the star of the hour and Hannah was watching her. Samantha was really proud that she had her “swimming lessons,” and she loved sharing it with Daddy. Samantha wasn’t afraid of the diving board and would even ask to be dunked!

Then we decided to send Hannah to another round of swim lessons. She had gotten the opportunity a couple of times to try the diving board with Samantha’s class, and she seemed a whole lot braver this time around. I’m so glad that we did the second class. Now Hannah loves the water. She had a little scare in the deep end, but she still jumped off the High Dive all by herself. Amazing!

Finally, one more lesson – well half a lesson. I don’t swim myself, so I decided to try out these swim lessons and see if they can help a 27 year old Mom. I took 4 private lessons and I certainly haven’t mastered swimming, but now I have a much firmer grasp on how to tread water, do the front crawl, back stroke, and breast stroke. And I even jumped off the diving board! Even I didn’t think it was possible, but I did it! I still won’t be able to rescue my kids from drowning, but maybe now I won’t have to worry about them trying to rescue me.

Kansas City

This summer has been very busy. Despite not having a “real” vacation, we have done lots of things to keep busy. This past weekend we dropped the oldest 2 kids off at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and traveled all the way to Kansas City to see the newest member of Ben’s family, Oliver, who is still in the hospital there. Ben’s sister and her husband joined us for the journey. It was nice to get away for a couple days. First we made a stop in Des Moines to visit my niece, Armina. Then we headed south to Kansas City. The drive through Missouri was a little too exciting though; someone compared it to being in the Wizard of Oz movie (they must have meant the very first part with the tornado). But despite all the wind, lightening, questionable looking clouds, and the overturned semi truck, we made it to our hotel safely. Saturday we got to visit Amy, Chip and Oliver, do some shopping, and eat at a great Italian restaurant. Ben got to try out a GPS gadget that he had borrowed for the trip. The GPS was really nice to have on a long trip to a city that we are not familiar with.

Our return to Iowa to pick up Hannah and Samantha (and to regular parenting duties) was made interesting by finding energetic Hannah sleeping on the couch at Sherrie and Kenny’s house. When she woke up after about 3 hours she threw up in the kitchen sink. It was a long drive home with a sick child, but thankfully she slept more and wasn’t really complaining much. We were happy to be sleeping in our own beds, and Mom was only up with the sick girl a couple of times during the night.