App Discoveries


quidco-cashback

Quidco is great. Cashback is great. The concept is simple and if you’re not using it, you’re missing out on what is essentially ‘free’ money. Yes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch in this world, but if you’re spending money, why not make some money as well?

The concept of Quidco is simple enough, you sign-up, search for a retailer and click to ‘visit’ the site for cashback. I suppose the premise is you’ll use retailers you might never have done before (or competitors of ones you would use) simply because you’re going to make more money in cashback. Balance that with a bit of price comparison and you might not only save money but make some back too.

I only discovered the magic of cashback a year or so ago. I wish I’d discovered it sooner. It’s great for saving money for Christmas presents or treating yourself. Plus if you’re buying gifts for other people you still feel like you’re getting something out of it too.

Getting Even More Cashback

The one problem I have with Quidco is I often forget to check to see if a site has cashback, unless it’s somewhere I regularly shop (like My Protein). Then I discovered their Cashback Reminder Extension for Google Chrome.

quidco-cashback-reminder

The idea of this is just as simple as the premise of the cashback itself. When you’re browsing/shopping/surfing you’ll get a pop-up to let you know when the site has cashback available. This is great not only as a reminder, but also to discover sites you didn’t even know did cashback to rake those rewards in.

Pretty simple right? And yet another free way to support your cashback earnings.

But wait, there’s more…

quidco-app

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better there’s even more. The Quidco App includes some functionality to improve your cashback opportunities even further. You can get notified of local deals – but my favourite thing is the ability to ‘register’ your credit/debit cards to your account. That means that when you visit a traditional brick-and-mortar store and make a purchase you might well be earning more cashback (that of course does depend on whether they’re in the program, but you get the idea).

If that’s not enough…

If that’s not enough money for you, there’s also Quidco Opinions – free surveys you can participate in that give you extra cash in your account. They’re pretty straightforward and similar to the likes of Valued Opinions, but it’s worth spending the time on them.

On an unrelated note, if you’re looking to save money as well as earn cashback then install invisible hand. This is a browser extension/plugin which notifies of cheaper prices elsewhere. So if you’re shopping for a particular product then you’ll get a pop-up to tell you you could save £££ by shopping elsewhere.

 

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Just recently, the wonder that is ‘If this, then that’ made its way to Android. It’s been around on the web for a while and had an iOS app too, but as usual, developers neglected the passionate audience that is Android users, until now.

ifttt banner

For those that don’t know, IFTTT (as it’s more conveniently known) is basically a dumbed down (aka user-friendly) version of Tasker. Tasker being that wonderful app that you can setup to automate your life – setting up various ‘triggers’ to get your phone to carry out Tasks. Well, this app does that but in a really user-friendly way. There’s not as much possibility with it (to be honest) but it is still very flexible and has some rather nice possibilities.

Here’s a quick video I made for your viewing pleasure:

Neat eh?

As you can see, there’s plenty of external app and website integration, actions built straight into Android (e.g. camera actions, SMS, wifi location etc) and thus there’s plenty of oppourtunity to do some really cool stuff.

Here’s some of my IFTTT Recipes that you might find useful:

Browse more, there’s loads of awesome ones out there – https://ifttt.com/recipes

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App100 slots

What’s it about?

The premise is a simple one. It is a slot machine simulator. It is styled after a particular type of machine that can be seen in penny arcades around UK seaside holiday resorts, but is not the sort of machine you see in your local pub.

Visuals

The game looks OK. It is bright and colourful, but nothing amazing. There is no complication to it, and perhaps more time could have been spent drawing a variety of machines to add to the longevity.

Audio

As the only gameplay option is to hit a button, I’d have hoped for that one action to produce some variety of sound, but it doesn’t and very soon becomes repetitive – I wanted to mute the game pretty quickly. More gameplay options would have given the chance for more sound options.

Screenshot_2014-04-06-12-50-26

Gameplay

This game is described as “free, addictive and by far the most advanced and realistic slot machine for your android device.” If that’s true, I have no interest in playing this style of machine. Whilst it looks alright, there is no variety in sight or sound. There is no game play other than hitting a single button repeatedly and hope. I did play it for a while just to see if any more machines or game modes unlocked but I found nothing. There is not even the pretence of any skill being needed and I shall be uninstalling as soon as I finish writing.

 

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the early naughties, then you’re probably aware of things like folding @ home – projects that basically crowd-source processing power of computers and Playstation’s to compute protein calculations and help with the discovery of the cure for cancer and other ailments. A good cause indeed.

Just recently I stumbled upon Samsung Power Sleep – an app built with the same goodwill in mind. A lot of people use their mobile phone as an alarm clock overnight, but otherwise there’s little use in having your phone on during your sleep hours. Yet you’ve probably got it plugged in an charging. So why not do something good with the processing power and do your bit?

So far I’ve managed to clock up 400+ hours of processing power donated to the cause.

Powersleep

The great thing is the app runs, uses Wifi and only works when your phone is plugged in, charging and has 80% battery or more. I’ve setup a Tasker task to optimise my phone for use too, so when it’s nighttime, the app automatically runs, the phone sets itself to silent, turns brightness all the way down, turns auto-sync off and other little tasks to minimise impact on my sleep cycle.

It’s good stuff, give it a go!

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I talked before about Tasker and what amazing things you can do with it. But I only really scratched the surface and recommended a few things, then pointed you in the direction of some videos. I thought it would be worth doing a follow up on other things I’ve discovered since.

So I was reading the various profiles other people had made and trying to decide which ones I liked the sound of. ‘Auto Respond While Driving‘ sounded instantly appealing. Basically it sends an SMS reply to incoming text message while you’re driving – doesn’t sound that impressive on the surface of it, but actually it’s much cooler, especially when you consider the steps the task is taking.

Firstly, the task is working out that you’re driving by using your GPS to determine your speed. Anything over 5mph (worked out by a clever variable) is deemed as driving (so you should note this task will kick in on trains, planes and automobiles). So, any incoming SMS will trigger this task if you’re travelling over that speed. The phone then responds with an automatic message (which you can choose the wording for) that includes a message about how you’ll get back to the sender but also highlights how fast you were going at the time.

driving

 

Here you can see we did a couple of tests – I got my wife to text me while I was driving and she was sitting next to me. I was in a 40mph then 60mph zone at the time, so no, I wasn’t speeding. But it worked perfectly.

You can optimise the task by telling it not to check GPS if you’re near familiar wifi.

Tasker Inverted Task

 

So here, you’ll note the conditions are: if any text is received and I’m not near (home) wifi and not near (work) wifi, then perform task. The task then checks my speed and if over 5mph it’ll carry out the auto text reply.

Neat eh? The best bit is it’s really easy to do because the profile is available to download, you just need to tweak your settings and add your wifi (inverted) as not near to complete it (for optimum battery life).

 

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I’ve been reading for a while now about just how great Tasker is. But every article or mention of Tasker states that it’s not user-friendly and not great for noobs, but if you can be bothered to put the time into learn it then it will transform your Android experience.

The other day I read an article ‘How to supercharge your Android device’s abilities with Tasker‘ and it tipped me over the edge. It’s only a couple of pounds, why don’t I just buy it and see how I get on. I must admit, it’s been my spare time obsession ever since.

What is this Tasker thing?

Tasker is an app. But it’s not an app in the usual sense, because most apps have a purpose when you boot them up. Tasker basically does nothing out of the box. Once you install it you actually have to decide what you’re going to do with it. And depending on your phone, your capabilities and your operating system, there’s a world of possibilities open to you.

Basically the clue to what Tasker does is in its name – it helps you create tasks for your phone. You’re programming it to do certain things according to your whim. At first this doesn’t sound that great but bare with me as I explain the relatively simple things I’ve done with it and the possibilities I’ve noticed while I’ve been testing an investigating.

What does it do?

Tasker basically runs a set of commands based on a set of ‘tasks’ you’ve set up. You can choose what starts those commands and then how your phone reacts as a result. Let me give you a simple example to demonstrate the possibilities.

youtube

I created the above profile. Now if you’re anything like me, you try to save battery by keeping auto-brightness on (or brightness low) when you’re not using your phone or you’re doing things like browsing or emailing that don’t require high brightness. Media volume is also low to prevent accidentally playing music out loud when you didn’t mean to. But then when you open Youtube to watch a video, you have to go and turn the brightness up and turn the volume up before you can enjoy the video – then remember to reverse the procedure when you’ve finished.

This profile means that I no longer have to do that as my phone does it for me. But how? First the profile is setup with a condition. The condition here being if I launch Youtube, Netflix or Google Play Movies to do a certain set of things. Simple enough so far. In the above screenshot you can see that condition on the left. On the right (with the green arrow) is the task(s) to be completed and (with the red arrow) the tasks to carry out when the condition has stopped (i.e. when I’ve stopped watching videos).

So what are the tasks?

tasks

 

These steps are carried out in order and they happen as soon as I launch the app(s). Tasker goes through and completes each task. Auto brightness is turned off (if it’s on (if you don’t have this step, the brightness cannot be changed in step 2 if it’s on)), turns brightness all the way up and sets media volume at just below maximum. So my phone is now optimised for video viewing.

Clearly I don’t want full brightness on all the time as it’ll only drain battery, so then I needed to setup some ‘exit’ tasks.

exit task

 

Adding the above tasks as an exit task list means that auto brightness is turned back on and volume is turned back down (so it doesn’t blast through my office by accident) and my phone is back to its optimised state. Of course there’s a lot more potential depending on what settings you like to use.

Getting more complicated

The above is a pretty simple task and not an example of the limits of Tasker. But it might have got your brain whirring about the potentials the app opens up. I’ve been trying to think about ways to optimise the way I used my phone to make my life easier and so far I’ve come up with a few different profiles.

tasklist

 

There’s a list of my current profiles and I’ll detail them to give you more insight into the possibilities:

In Car

  • Condition – (State) connected to Bluetooth (my in car CD player)
  • Task ‘Car Mode’:
    • Keyguard off – this turns off the pin code requirements to access the phone (great if you’re in an accident and someone needs to call an ambulance from your phone)
    • Auto brightness off – same logic as with the above, turns this off so we can turn it up/down.
    • Load App (Waze) – boots up Waze so I can navigate with ease.
    • Display brightness (level 255) – turns brightness all the way up
    • Notification volume (level 7) – turns notification volume all the way up
    • Media volume (level 15) – turns media all the way up so I can hear any info from the app
    • Ringer volume (level 15) – turns ringer all the way up so I know about incoming calls (no one ever rings me though)
    • Load App (Ingress) – boots up Ingress so I can collect XM on the way home.
    • Display Timeout (1 hour) – stops the screen from timing out and the phone from locking
  • Exit Task ‘Car Mode Off’
    • Keyguard on – turns the lock back on so I don’t accidentally leave my phone unlocked when I’m out and about.
    • Kill App (Waze) – shuts the app down as I’m not travelling any more.
    • Notification Volume (level 0) – I’m probably at home or in the office, I don’t want loud notifications!
    • Ringer Volume (level 0) – see above
    • Vibrate on Ringer – turns vibrate on.
    • Auto brightness (on) – optimises display

So the above profile is quite simply designed to boot up some apps and make my phone brighter and louder when I’m in my car. Then do the reverse when I’m not. I could do all this myself, but it would involve remembering to do it (something I’m not great at) and spending time doing each setting and app. So by creating this profile I’ve optimised my life.

Sat or Sun

  • Condition – day of the week = Saturday or Sunday
  • Task ‘Wifi On’:
    • Wifi on.

This one is simple. If it’s the weekend, I’m usually at home so I want Wifi on. Otherwise it can be off.

Headset In

  • Condition – headset plugged in.
  • Task ‘Spotify’:
    • Load App (Spotify) – boots app for listening to music.
  • Exit Task ‘Spotify Off’
    • Kill App (Spotify) – turns Spotify off. I don’t want it running if I’m not using it!

Another simple one that boots the Spotify app when I plug my headset in.

Even more complicated

Once you’ve got to those sorts of profiles you start to realise the possibilities even more. For example, you can optimise your settings (e.g. wifi on/off, bluetooth on/off, GPS on/off) based on so many different states it might make your mind boggle – day of the week, time of day, location based on GPS, location based on nearby Wifi, location based on nearest cell tower or a mixture of all of these. You then start to think about streamlining your profiles to make them work better. For example, I had a profile ‘Commute to Work’ (you can see it in the above screenshot turned off) that basically did everything the ‘In Car’ profile does but it required it to be Mon-Fri, between 07:00-09:00 and for me to be connected to the bluetooth in my car. I quickly realised I’d over-optimised that profile. I could just set it to work when connected to the bluetooth and nothing else.

Help from the internet

I’ve been watching a series of useful videos on Tasker. Watch them if you have time and you’ll see the range of possibilities available.

But you can also check out the wiki for cool profile ideas and downloads to install for easy setup.

http://tasker.wikidot.com/profile-index

 

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