My favourite applications for Android

In a previous post, I wrote about the Fairphone. I own one, and this is how I entered the Android world. The only operating systems I had used before were those for personal computers.

As a GNU/Linux user, I got into the bad habit of having full control over my computing environment, and having the means to adapt it to suit my needs, and being able to rely on a vast repository of good free software, each of which leaves my private data alone, and none of which bugs me with ads. No need to say, I have become quite demanding :-p

Although Android has a well-earned reputation of being a locked-down environment (though not as much as iOS is), the Fairphone thankfully does not fall into this category. Besides, F-Droid made my day on the software front…

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F-Droid is an Android software repository, with open-source software only, and for each program a privacy-centred analysis has been performed, the result of which is freely available; for example, you are warned that Firefox lets you install third-party extensions, some of which may not be open-source, and that by default it connects to Mozilla’s servers on a regular basis for statistical purposes but Firefox lets you deactivate these connections in the settings.
The applications I use (all are open-source) are these (not all from F-Droid):

  • Core functions:
    • DAVdroid: This technical adapter makes the native Calendar and Contacts applications able to display and update calendars and address books from a CalDAV and/or CardDAV server. I had satisfactory usage with DAViCal first, and then with OwnCloud. These calendars and address books can thus be shared with email clients such as Thunderbird, Evolution, or Outlook.
    • OsmAnd~: It is a shame that this application is repeatedly ignored by comparison charts where GPS is concerned! It may not have 3D rendering as the commercial alternatives do, but it is free in both senses of the word. I actually used it on holiday in a place I did not know at all, and it worked really fine, audio navigation and all. More over, this application will not report your every movement to a central server. All maps may be downloaded for local use, both for casual viewing and for guided navigation, which comes handy during a travel: you will not worry about the 3G geographical coverage, nor about draining your mobile plan. And this is how I can fully enjoy this software in spite of my 5€-worth mobile plan :-)
    • Firefox: No need to present Firefox, the web browser that provides in my opinion the best available balance between features and privacy. More over, its synchronisation feature allows me synchronise all my Firefox profiles, not only from Android but also from Linux and Windows, to my server; I thus share all my bookmarks (as well as my reading list), my add-ons (protection rules included), my navigation history, my opened tabs, and on a few computers also my passwords, between all the profiles.
    • Hacker’s Keyboard: This keyboard is laid out like a physical keyboard, and yet remains perfectly usable on the smartphone’s small screen. I use it mainly to interact with the command line, be it the local command line or a remote one. This keyboard also makes a good substitute for a real keyboard when I want to draft an article, since all the usual keys are there, where I expect them to be. I use this keyboard in 5-row mode, for both portrait and landscape orientations.
    • Ghost Commander: This simple file manager has more than one trick up its sleeves. It obviously allows to browse the file-system, under any mount point, as “root” or as the default user. It can also pack and send an already installed application to another Android device using Bluetooth.
    • Wi-Fi Widget: WiFi settings right on the welcome screen.
  • Multimedia:
    • VLC: Who does not know VLC? This application conquered the Windows and Linux desktops by leaps and bounds. And it is just as useful on Android, for browsing and viewing videos and music found on the device’s storage.
    • Jitsi: Even though it is experimental software in theory, this Android port of the Jitsi program is remarkably stable. Everything is there: I can chat and I can phone, with video if I want, all of it using my Jabber/XMPP account, that I host on my server.
    • YAACC: This small sweet tool allows me to watch films and listen to songs streaming from my server using DLNA.
  • Games, in no particular order:
    • Catan Dice Game: Simpler version of the board game.
    • DroidAtomix: This small game, where you assemble molecules, is as educative as it is fun; too bad it is a bit difficult to control on a small screen…
    • FlickIt!: A kind of pool game.
    • FreeShisen: The classical solitary played game, where you join pairs of similarly decorated tiles.
    • Hataroid: An Atari emulator, which transforms your smartphone into a portable gaming console! (Prince Of Persia or Lemmings, anyone?)
    • Replica Island: A platformer game that brings some novelty into the genre.
    • Sokoban: A classic game, always enjoyable, where objects must be pushed to the right spots.
    • Ned et les Maki: A cute and promising take on making a modern and evolved Sokoban, with already several playable levels.
    • TiltMazes: Bring the ball towards the labyrinth’s exit by tilting your Android device. Of course, the automatic screen rotation must be disabled, otherwise you get a rotating screen instead of a rolling ball :-D
    • Warmux: Kill’em all!
  • Connectivity:
    • AndIodine: This is for connecting to my server when I have a very limited network connection. It is expectedly very slow, but it did help me a couple of times in hotels.
    • androidVNC: Simply a VNC client. VNC is a multi-platform remote desktop protocol.
    • aRDP Free: An open-source RDP client. RDP is a remote desktop protocol that is mostly used by Windows. I use this software first of all to display the local Debian (read on for more information).
    • ownCloud: Synchronisation of local files with my own OwnCloud cloud storage.
    • ProxyDroid: A local proxy server, that I use to connect to the Internet through my server, when the direct WiFi network is configured with unwanted restrictions.
    • VX ConnectBot: A command line tool, that I use to connect either to the local Android console (which allows me to launch Debian for example), or to a remote SSH server (file transfers are handled by the tool).
    • X Server: An X11 server, in case I wish to remotely use a graphical application (such as a remote LibreOffice of Thunderbird) through an SSH connection.
  • Miscellaneous applications:
    • Debian Kit: The complete Debian distribution, with access to its huge software repositories. The Android tool includes shortcut commands to quickly start or stop the SSH server or the Debian graphical display. In order to truly use Debian, I plug a keyboard and a mouse to the smartphone’s USB port.
    • KeePassDroid: With this software, I can use the passwords database that I keep on a USB flash drive.
    • Obsqr: QR-code reader.
    • Wheelmap: Navigate in the accessibility information from the wheelmap.org collaborative database.

To the contrary, even though I did install the Google Apps (so that I can use the Play Store), I disabled — with root rights, you can do that ;-) — the following applications: Android Live Wallpapers, Basic Daydreams, Gmail, Google Bookmarks Sync, Google Calendar Sync, Google Contacts Sync, Google Partner Setup, Google Search, Google+, Magic Smoke Wallpapers, Market Feedback Agent, Music Visualization Wallpapers, MusicFX, News & Weather, Photo Screensavers, Picasa Uploader, Sound Search for Google Play and TalkBack.
This way, I protect my privacy further… and I let my battery last longer.

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