Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sane Flashlight Android App


Android app on Google Play
I made a flashlight app for Android that actually works well and does'nt have any junk. Install it from Google Play Store and read this article to know why I made this app and how it differs from other similar apps in the market.

What does it do?

This app turn ON the camera flash LED when you need. The app turns ON the flash LED as soon as you open the app and you can toggle it by clicking anywhere on the screen.

Why is this made and how does this differ from other apps?

There are many Android apps which are meant to do the same, but I personally did not like many of the apps which I tried. Most of them do more harm than good. So, I made one which works well and does not annoy.

No Extra Permissions Required

Most Android apps in this category do spy on you. I was wondering why so many apps need access to your contacts, calendar and lots of other information which is not required to run the app. The only reason they do that is to spy on you. They steal your contact information, caller ID, and other stuff which is a total fraud.
A top listed flashlight Android app has access to your photos, Wi-Fi, Caller ID and many more
Check this Android app in the screenshot above. It is one of the top listed flashlight app in Google Play Store. It needs permission to access your photos, files, Wi-Fi information, Location, Caller ID and many more which is insane! This is just an example, but there are many other apps that ask for extra permissions. The app which I made just asks for access to Camera which is required by the Android API to operate the Flashlight LED.

Less Fancy but More Useful and Clutter free Interface

Screenshot when OFF
Screenshot when ON

I made the toggle button to cover the entire screen so that you need not search for the button and instead just click anywhere on the screen to either turn ON or OFF. I hardly used any fancy animations or images in the UI. This makes it lightweight and probably faster too. A brighter screen consumes a lot more power than a darker one. So, I have purposefully kept most part of the screen dark to save battery power. The borders toggle between black and white indicating the LED status.

No Unwanted Features, No Ads of any kind and works Well

I see many flashlight apps coming with too many unwanted features which are sometimes not even relevant to the app. Some of them are very heavyweight with all the unwanted junk. I tried to keep the functionality focused on just operating the flashlight well when you need. I found many Flashlight apps turn OFF after screen timeout. I tried to prevent that. It has no ads or other stuff that may annoy you. It just works. I like the Linux philosophy of do one thing and do it well. It does not run any background services so it does not affect your phone when you are not using the app. It is safe to install.

Free and Open Source

Feel free to use the app and I encourage you to play with the code if you have any knowledge of it or if you want to learn. I will try to document the code well so that if you are a beginner, you can use the source code to learn making android apps. It is a very simple program so I think works as a good hello world project for Android. I will be really happy if you can make it better and share the code with me. Grab the Sane Flashlight source code on GitHub...


It just took a couple of hours to make the first version of this app so I made it instead of searching for a better one from the thousands of apps in the play store. I have published it hoping that it will help you too. Try it and I will be glad to receive suggestions and feedback from you. You may download it from the Google Play Store.

Android app on Google Play

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Apps and Services That Can Help You When You Travel to USA

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I have come to United States an year ago to pursue my masters. In the beginning days, I had no mobile, no laptop and no similar gadget with me. It was hard to communicate and roam around without these things. But I have learned many things which can help you when you travel to United States. There are many mobile apps and online services which can help you in your transition and later too. Here we go:

It is better to get a either a smartphone (I prefer Android and make sure it works in USA), a laptop or tablet when you come to USA. Otherwise buy one after you arrive. Most of these apps or services are recommended assuming that you have an easy access to internet and Wi-Fi connection.


  1. Google Voice [PC/ Linux, Mac, Android]

    If you have a personal laptop or a PC, you can use Google Voice to make phone calls and SMS across the United States for free. There is also an Android app, but it works only if you have a mobile service. I mean to say that the Google Voice Android app does not work if you do not have a SIM card, but you can make calls from your computer/ laptop from Gmail. You can add a few bucks to your Google Voice account and use it for cheap international calling.
  2. UppTalk [Android]

    There are many free calling apps for Android in the United States. I have tried many of them, but felt this was better than the flock. If you have a mobile device and do not have a SIM card or mobile service yet, this can come to your rescue. You will be assigned a number and you can call anyone in the US and receive calls for free. You just need WiFi connectivity for this to work.
  3. call2friends.com [Web with flash plugin]

    This website provides limited free calling to many countries. It provides free calling to India for a minute per day and for United States for about 3 minutes (at the time of writing this post). Although this does not sound a good alternative, it helps sometimes. I was using this to call my parents in India and ask them to come online on Skype. I used to use Google voice from my laptop for calling from the United States and used this website to notify my family or friends to appear online. 
  4. Facebook Messenger [Android, iOS, web]

    Not yet popular, but Facebook messenger has recently added a feature to make voice calls. This is an awesome feature and can help you, call your friends anywhere in the world and that too without having a mobile number. However, to make a call the person on the other side should also have this app installed. The good thing is that most of the people in US have a smart phone, WiFi connection and this app installed. We may not have phone numbers of all our friends, but we have most of our friends on Facebook which makes this app very useful at times.
  5. Calling Cards

    There are many proxy calling services using which you can make cheap international calls. I hardly use these services as I go with Google Voice but most of my friends do. Most of my friends use indiald.com, telcan.com and other similar services to make cheap calls to India. You can give them a try if needed.

Finding Accomodation

There are many services which can help you find vacant houses around you. Here are the ones which I felt can help you out.
  1. Zillow.com

    This is an excellent app to find houses around you. It has both a web version and an Android app. The Android app can find houses round you based on your location. It marks vacant houses on a map and we can also search by distance from your location. But this app may not show all the vacant houses around. Its database was not that good at the time I used it.
  2. Trulia.com

    This is similar to Zillow. I hardly used this app, but many people and tech blogs recommend this. Also, it has better ratings on Google Play and seems to be more popular than Zillow. There can be many other houses not listed on these apps, so it is always a good idea to check by visiting local real estate agents.

Split Expenses

  1. Splitwise.com

    Most students and employees plan to live in a shared apartment after arriving in the US, at-least in the first few months unless you are rich enough. If you are sharing an apartment with your friends, you may have to split expenses among your roommates. This app does exactly that and simplifies a few complex calculations and saves a lot of time.
  2. SplitEasy

    SplitWise is a good service, but we had a bad experience with it. A few entries got modified or, deleted without our intervention. Mistakes in financial matters is not always a tolerable issue, so we planned to make a software of our own. I started coding it on a fine weekend in Python and we have replaced SplitWise with this for our in-house purposes. This uses entries from an excel sheet and does the calculations. I don't recommend you use it in the present state (at the time of writing this post) as it is not well documented and doesn't have a pretty interface. I will post it on my blog at all if I document it and make it user friendly.


  1. Explore around you with Google Maps

    You can use the Google Maps Android app to easily find places around you like restaurants, gas stations, parks, offices, etc. In the current interface, if you click on the user icon on the right-top corner, you will be shown places around you in categories. You can also find user ratings to all the places. That's a very helpful feature if you are new to that place. I recently went to Seattle on a vacation to my sister's house and this app helped me a lot. Every day in the evening, I used to open this app and plan for my next days' trip. I've enjoyed a lot in this vacation and thanks to Google Maps.
  2. Did I miss Anything?

    I have listed apps and services that I have used and felt are also be helpful to you. But that does not mean I am aware of all the wonderful apps and services. Let me and other readers know if you know any other good apps or services. That would be very helpful.

Most of these apps may work for you everywhere independent of the location, but a few of them are relevant only for the United States. Some of my friends are coming to the USA to pursue their higher education and a few are coming on some job and some of you can be tourists. Whosoever you are, I hope this post helps.